Former employee sues Staunton school board over alleged back pay owed

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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) — A former employee has sued the Staunton school board, according to court documents.

The suit was filed in June in the western division of the United States District Court. According to the lawsuit, Tammy Johnson, the former employee, alleges the school board owes her back pay for overtime she worked while employed. The lawsuit said she is also looking to recover payment she claims she is owed for accrued sick leave.

According to court documents, Johnson worked as an employee from 2001 until June 2018. Johnson was originally a transportation supervisor, before court documents said her position was changed to transportation coordinator in 2013. The documents said that position is non-exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act, meaning it's eligible for overtime.

The lawsuit alleges Johnson often worked more than 40 hours a week, but was not compensated for the overtime. According to the lawsuit, Johnson was the only one who worked in the office and worked through her lunch break to handle calls.

The lawsuit alleges that beginning in June 2013, the payroll system automatically deducted a half-hour lunch break from the time sheet, but Johnson was working during that time.

The lawsuit claims Johnson was required to be on-call and worked during those on-call hours. Between June 2013 and mid-April 2018, the lawsuit claims Johnson worked an average of 28-30 hours each month and was not compensated for it.

In addition to the overtime, the lawsuit states Johnson was able to accumulate unlimited sick time, per the policy. By the end of employment, the lawsuit said Johnson had collected about 1,000 hours of sick leave. The court records said based on the amount of time, Johnson's sick leave pay should have been deferred to her retirement plan.

In a response filed in August on behalf of the school board, the board denied Johnson was the only one working at the office and denied it was aware Johnson worked through her lunch break.

The document also said Johnson was told specifically to take a lunch break and signed an employee notice about it. The document also said Johnson was aware she could override time records if needed to accurately address time worked.

The document goes on to claim Johnson was "experienced in claiming overtime" and had been paid for it. In regards to the sick leave claim, the document denies Johnson was entitled to pay for accumulated sick leave or for it to be paid to her retirement plan.

A lawyer for Johnson declined comment when reached by WHSV.

Staunton Public School's superintendent Garett Smith declined to comment. The lawyer representing to the school board did not respond to calls for comment.