School district allegedly fails to pay overtime

District 205 Will Settle Lawsuit Filed by Former Staff Members in March 2012

Posted by Karen Chadra (Editor), June 12, 2013 at 11:02 pm

A lawsuit filed against Elmhurst District 205 back in March 2012 is very close to being settled without a trial, but that settlement comes with a price tag of nearly $400,000.

On March 22, 2012, an attorney representing former district employees Suzanne Holler and Mary Caliri, as well as other past and present district employees, filed a class action lawsuit claiming the district “willfully and improperly” denied them overtime and wages over the prior six years.

The settlement the School Board approved Tuesday night is in no way an admission of wrongdoing, board President Jim Collins said.

“The School District maintains it properly paid its employees all wages owed, and there is no evidence that it took any action with respect to compensation that was illegal or negligent, or that otherwise involved any deliberate improper conduct or omissions, and the court has made no findings to the contrary,” Collins said.

The settlement is to “avoid additional expense, diversion of administrative and board time, delay and uncertainty of further litigation,” he said.

“The board has determined this agreement is in the best educational and financial interest of Elmhurst Unit District 205,” Collins said.

The suit alleged the district was in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Illinois Minimum Wage Law and the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act.

According to the suit, the plaintiffs, administrative personnel whose duties included payroll and human resources, “routinely worked in excess of 40 hours per week” but the district designated their positions as exempt from overtime pay. The suit relied on the Fair Labor Standards Act, among other laws, which states an employee must be paid overtime equal to 1 1/2 times the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 per week.

The suit also alleged that the district formerly paid overtime to administrative personnel, but “made a unilateral decision to stop paying nonexempt employees for their overtime work.” Plaintiffs also alleged the district began calculating their pay based on 37 1/2 hours a week instead of 40.

Collins on Tuesday said the district began an internal audit of more than 25 central office support staff positions in May 2011 “to assess if they had been properly classified as exempt from overtime under state and federal law and whether they were due overtime wages.”

He said the audit carried over into the 2011-’12 school year because of “significant changes in the central office administration” at that time. While the audit was underway, Holler and Caliri filed suit, Collins said. Eleven additional employees joined them as plaintiffs.

The agreement approved by the School Board Tuesday provides a maximum gross settlement of $300,000, which includes formulaic payments to plaintiffs who choose to make a claim. It also provides for a $72,500 payment to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, as well as for costs and expenses of a settlement administrator.

The court must approve the terms of the settlement, and the lawsuit will be dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning the judgment is final and the district is not subject to any further action related to wages during the relevant time period, Collins said.