By Charles Maldonado, Staff writer April 10, 2015 12:51pm
A former sheriff’s deputy has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman failed for years to pay him and other hourly employees for all the hours they worked, in violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
The suit was filed by former sheriff’s deputy Donald Marshall, who left the office last year. Marshall is seeking class-action status for the suit, applying to all current and former deputies for the past three years.
The suit centers on extra time the deputies are alleged to work before and after their shifts begin. According to the suit, deputies are required to be at their posts for roll call before they’re scheduled to start. And they’re often required to work after their shifts end, until they are relieved.
Marshall’s lawyer, Brian Glorioso, said they’re not paid for much of that extra time.
The Sheriff’s Office, he said “created this internal policy where they don’t pay for any increment less than 30 minutes” above a scheduled shift.
“They were not paid at all for the time, and therefore it wasn’t included in the calculation for their overtime,” he said, meaning Gusman’s office could be responsible not only for unpaid regular wages, but the time-and-a-half wages deputies should have received for overtime hours.
Gusman spokesman Phil Stelly said the office doesn’t comment on litigation.
Glorioso said it’s too early to guess at a dollar figure for back pay owed, but he said that based on the timesheets he’s reviewed, he believes the practice of requiring deputies to work extra time without pay occurred frequently.
“It could be several hours a week, or every pay period, for each deputy,” Glorioso said. “I think it could be a significant number.”
In monthly staffing reports submitted to the state last year, Gusman reported more than 450 deputies working at the city’s jail.
Glorioso said he will be seeking additional Sheriff’s Office employees willing to testify to the alleged violations.
Marshall is also the plaintiff in a state lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office, alleging that he was exposed to toxic mold while working there. He declined to comment for this story.
But former deputy Bryan Collins, who unsuccessfully sued Gusman in a federal whistleblower suit, said he too had questions about his wages when he worked for the sheriff.
Collins was not a party to Marshall’s suit as of Friday morning, when The Lens contacted him.
“I can tell you as far as my recollection that the department did have a policy of clocking in no more than 15 minutes before your scheduled time and no later than 15 minutes after your scheduled time,” even if they were required to arrive earlier or stay later, he said.
He remembered thinking that his pay stubs were unclear as to how overtime pay was calculated.
“No-fricking-body understood anything about how they were getting paid,” he said. “No one has ever really [officially] challenged or examined whether these wages were being paid correctly, but everybody questioned it.”