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Cleveland Settles Overtime Class Action Brought By Municipal Workers


Sometimes, even the institution that was put in place to uphold our laws fails to abide by those laws. Such was allegedly the case with the city of Cleveland, which recently settled a class action wage and hour lawsuit with municipal workers who were employed by the city.

Cheryl Armbruster, who works for the Department of Public Safety for the city of Cleveland, alleged that the city maintained a practice of rounding up or down the time that an employee clocked in or out. The employer assumed that everything would average out in the end, but the lawsuit alleges that it did not work out that way in practice. Instead, workers who clocked in early, clocked out late, or returned early from unpaid lunch breaks were allegedly never properly compensated for the time that they spent working for the city. Far from harmless, Armbruster alleged that this wage and hour practice was a violation for both federal and state labor laws, including the Ohio Labor and Employment Law, the Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act, and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

People often assume that rounding an employee’s time up or down by a few minutes is insignificant enough to be considered harmless. In reality, a few minutes a day can result in substantial unpaid time when spread out over months or years. Depending on how much time the employees are already spending performing work, the rounding policy could result in unpaid overtime, and the FLSA has very strict rules about how employers should compensate their workers for any time spent working over eight hours a day or forty hours a week. Under the Act, all hourly non-exempt employees are entitled to one and one-half times their normal hourly rate for all time spent working overtime.

It is for this very reason that the FLSA has such strict policies on maintaining accurate employee time records. Under the Act, all employers are required to maintain accurate records of all of the time that their employees work, the wages earned by and paid to those employees, and any deductions made from their paychecks, such as taxes and health insurance.

The lawsuit was settled for $2.2 million and will compensate almost 4,000 municipal employees who worked for the city of Cleveland any time between January 1, 2011 and March 4, 2014.

A settlement agreement is not the same as an admission of guilt, although the city of Cleveland has changed its policy. Settlements, however, are normally used to avoid the uncertainty of a long and costly legal battle, which could potentially drag on in the court for months, or even years. As the motion for settlement stated, “If forced to litigate this case further, the parties would certainly engage in complex, costly and protracted wrangling. … The settlement, on the other hand, provides substantial relief to [the class members] promptly and efficiently, and amplifies the benefits of that relief through the economies of class resolution.” The settlement needs to be approved by a federal judge before it can be finalized, but assuming that goes smoothly, class members should look forward to receiving a check in the mail.

The attorneys at Chicago Overtime Law Center have decades of experience litigating wage and hour cases, including overtime, vacation pay, meal breaks, and tips. We have offices conveniently located in Oak Brook and Chicago, Illinois. Contact an Rolling Meadows and Mt. Propect wage and hour lawyer at the Chicago Overtime Law Center today at 312-869-4095. We are looking to represent loan and mortgage brokers who have not been paid overtime and have been mis-classified as managers.