By Joe Beck
U.S. District Judge Michael F. Urbanski Monday ordered a three-day jury trial beginning March 25 in a lawsuit filed by former and current Frederick County deputies over what they contend is unpaid overtime.
Urbanski issued his order four days before attorneys for both sides are scheduled to meet in a settlement conference, according to electronic court documents. No one from the opposing sides returned phone calls asking for comment.
Urbanski's order comes months after the 63 deputies rejected an offer by the county Board of Supervisors to pay for roughly a third of what deputies are seeking in back pay.
The deputies and their attorneys contend that the county denied them overtime pay for at least seven years by refusing to follow a change in the state law that lowered the number of hours deputies had to work in a month to be eligible for overtime. The plaintiffs argue the law should be applied for overtime hours they worked between late 2006 and Jan. 1, 2012.
The complaint accuses the county of following a policy under which deputies who work overtime in one pay period are allowed to take those hours off in future pay periods although they receive no credit for the comp hours at the overtime rate.
The specific overtime period in question covers a so-called "pay gap" that ranges between 160 and 171 hours in a 28-day pay period. Federal law allows local jurisdictions to avoid paying overtime up until 171 hours in a 28-day period, the complaint states.
But the plaintiffs contend that a change in the state law lowered the standard in Virginia to 160 hours beginning in late 2006.
The plaintiffs also accuse the defendants of failing to keep accurate time records, altering records of hours worked and misappropriating hours. In some cases, deputies had their work hours altered in such a way that their regularly scheduled hours were cut to avoid paying them previous overtime hours, the suit argues.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org