A federal judge has given class-action status to a lawsuit that accuses Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman of shortchanging deputies on wages they earned while attending mandatory roll calls and while waiting to be relieved at the end of their shifts.
Notice of the Fair Labor Standards Act litigation was mailed last week to hundreds of current and former deputies, who, according to the letter, have 45 days from Feb. 9 to join the case.
The lawsuit was filed last year in U.S. District Court by Don Marshall Jr., a deputy who left the Sheriff’s Office at the end of 2014 after being elected constable in Tangipahoa Parish.
Marshall has a separate civil lawsuit against the sheriff alleging that he was sickened by his prolonged exposure to toxic mold in the Criminal District Courthouse and the now-shuttered Orleans Parish Prison.
Marshall’s attorney, Brian Glorioso, of Slidell, said the class-action wages case has drawn the attention of the U.S. Department of Labor. “They had an ongoing investigation,” Glorioso said, “but once our suit was filed, they essentially put that on hold to follow our suit.”
The lawsuit alleges Gusman maintained an unwritten policy not to pay deputies overtime unless it exceeded 30 minutes, “despite the mandatory nature of a deputy’s presence before and after shift times.”
Glorioso, in a phone interview, said a deputy might end his shift at 5 p.m. but not be relieved until 25 minutes later. “They didn’t get straight time pay or overtime pay” for that extra time, he said, unless it was more than half an hour.
This “payment scheme” affected not only Marshall, the lawsuit alleges, but “similarly situated” Sheriff’s Office employees. Potential plaintiffs include all deputies who worked at the Sheriff’s Office “in the three years directly preceding April 9, 2015,” according to court documents.
A Sheriff’s Office spokesman did not return a call seeking comment Monday.
Gusman’s attorneys said in court filings last year that the Sheriff’s Office made “reasonable, good-faith efforts” to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act and that “any alleged violations of the law were not willful.”
The Sheriff’s Office opposed giving the case class-action status, arguing that the responsibilities of deputies vary significantly depending on which facility they work in. U.S. District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown said those concerns could be used later in the case to potentially “narrow the scope” of the class.
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