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The New Orleans Coroners Office leaves a murder scene earlier this year, 2017. 

Advocate staff photo by SOPHIA GERMER

A death investigator fired this year by Orleans Parish Coroner Jeffrey Rouse's office has filed a federal lawsuit accusing her former employer of improperly denying her overtime pay.

Jennifer Trigueros alleges that Rouse's office misclassified her as an employee who was not entitled to extra compensation if she worked more than 40 hours a week.

The suit says that "most coroner's offices in the state of Louisiana" pay those in her position overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week, something she routinely did whenever fatalities were reported at the end of her shift.

Trigueros' lawsuit says she worked for Rouse's office from Feb. 2, 2015, to Jan. 9, 2017. She claims she was fired after complaining on Facebook that an unidentified co-worker signing on for the day refused to take over investigating a fatality reported at the end of an overnight shift for Trigueros on New Year's Eve 2016.

Trigueros' lawsuit says her Facebook post was protected under federal law, and it characterizes her dismissal as an illegal act of retaliation.

She seeks an unspecified amount of overtime and vacation pay from Rouse's office.

Neither Rouse nor Trigueros' attorney, Christa Hayes Forrester, immediately responded to requests for comment on the lawsuit, which was filed Friday and allotted to U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon. 

Federal law generally requires employers to pay workers overtime if they go over 40 hours, though some employees — often executives on salary — are exempt from that requirement.

Rouse became coroner in 2014. He signed up to run for a second term earlier this year but abandoned his campaign several weeks later and lost to challenger Dwight McKenna. McKenna is set to be sworn in next year.

Trigueros also has worked as an investigator for the coroner's offices in St. Charles and St. Tammany parishes, according to her LinkedIn profile. She also was a crime scene investigator for the St. John the Baptist and Plaquemines parish sheriff's offices.

Follow Ramon Antonio Vargas on Twitter, @RVargasAdvocate.

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