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On-call employees were unpaid, restricted from going to movies

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By Jacquelyn Stoess Hack

 

County employees who were restricted from dining out, shopping and/or leaving Oldham County while on-call during evenings and weekends since 2009 are now entitled to more than $300,000 in back pay, according to the Ky. Labor Cabinet.

Animal control officers Michael Compton, Joseph DeVuono, Polly Helton, Jim Nichter and Tommy Smith filed grievances with the Ky. Labor Cabinet in 2012, alleging that county government would not compensate employees for evenings and weekends they are assigned to work on-call.

The on-call policy for animal control officers required immediate response.

“This means he/she cannot leave the county,” nor can the on-call officer be involved in an activity or event that would prevent immediate response. 

“So, no going to the movies, shopping or out to dinner because you must be able to immediately respond to an emergency,” the policy reads. 

Labor cabinet officials issued two notices of violation for Oldham County government, including an order to pay the employees a total of $324,389.30 by March 14, and imposed a $500 fine.

County government has not paid the fine or back pay as instructed by the labor cabinet.

Documents from the labor cabinet show that failure to pay the fines or back pay by the March 14 deadline could result in legal action against Oldham County Fiscal Court. 

The Oldham Era obtained documents via records requests submitted to Oldham County Judge-Executive David Voegele and County Attorney John Carter. 

According to a letter dated Feb. 27, state investigator Thomas Yancey states that Oldham Co. Fiscal Court failed to compensate the animal control officers for overtime and failed to pay minimum wage per hour for on-call time from July 2009 through August 2012.

Yancey said the following employees are entitled to back wages in the specified amounts – Michael Compton, $36,513.40; Joseph DeVuono, $22,399.63; Polly Helton, $33,881.54; Jim Nichter, $103,793.46; and Tom Smith, $127,801.27.

Yancey said his findings are based on monthly schedules of on-call assignments from July 2009 to August 2012.

Oldham County Animal Control Director Barbara Rosenman had been placed on paid administrative leave for two weeks. She was reinstated March 18.

Oldham County Attorney John Carter refutes the labor cabinet’s findings.

In a letter to the labor cabinet’s investigator, Carter wrote, “it is my concern that some degree of attempted fraud may exist.”

According to Tina Schaaf, the county’s human resources manager, Oldham Co. Fiscal Court has no “on-call time” policy, and all animal control officers are employees of fiscal court.

In May 2012, county officials discovered an after-hours/on-call policy for animal control officers and instructed the animal control director to revise the policy to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to a letter from Schaaf to the labor cabinet.

Schaaf said animal control officers received a memo on July 2 detailing the corrected policy and each employee acknowledged the memo with his or her signature.

In the memo, Rosenman wrote that she has repeatedly asked members of fiscal court to appropriately compensate on-call animal control officers for their emergency response. 

“I felt one hour of pay for each 16-hour shift was a fair and just compensation for restricting your time and activities,” Rosenman wrote to her staff. “This was denied by fiscal court.”

As of July 1, she wrote, employees’ on-call time is no longer restricted. 

“If you are the designated on-call ACO and you are unavailable, then dispatch, police, fire and the public will have to wait until you are available,” Rosenman wrote in the memo.

Email us about this story at: editor@oldhamera.com.