In a lawsuit filed recently against the City of Rockingham, five current and former employees of the city’s fire department are claiming the city violated their right to receive overtime pay, as well as retaliated against them in their terms and conditions of work for exercising their rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The city vows to “vigorously defend itself” against the claims, and will attempt to move the lawsuit to federal court, according to City Manager Monty Crump.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are William Bellamy, Adam Covington, Vernon McKinnon, Michael Meginnis, Troy Sorrell and Michael Williams.
The plaintiffs also “assert violation of rights guaranteed to them under the Constitution of North Carolina, as well as breach of agreement” with the city. They seek “injunctive relief and compensatory damages,” according to papers filed with the Richmond County Clerk of Court.
The complaint was filed May 23, and was amended on June 5 “to correct the name of one plaintiff in the case caption. IN all other respects, the amended complaint is the same as the original complaint.” The lawsuit is 7 pages long.
In March 2009 a lawsuit was filed against the City of Rockingham by 10 firemen, “seeking payment for overtime work that had not been properly compensated as required by the FLSA,” according to page 2 of the latest lawsuit. Each of the plaintiffs in the new complaint were parties to the previous lawsuit.
On Dec. 18, 2009, both parties came to an agreement; that neither the city nor any of its officials shall take any adverse action against any of the plaintiffs, according to the latest complaint.
According to the current suit, after Jan. 1, 2010, the City of Rockingham changed the way that it compensated firefighters when they worked overtime. The city “essentially put firefighters on a 14 day work cycle,” but then began paying them a fixed “hourly wage” of half of their regular hourly rate, for all compensable hours worked over 106 hours in a 14 day work cycle, the complaint says.
The City of Rockingham also changed the way that firefighters were compensated for holiday time, the new lawsuit alleges.
According to the suit, the plaintiffs who have worked regular hours since Jan 1., 2010, “have not received overtime compensation.” The suit also claims they have “received less pay than they otherwise would have received.”
Asked to comment on the new lawsuit, City Manager Crump provided this response to the Daily Journal:
“In 2009, 10 Rockingham firemen formed a union and filed a Federal Wage and Hour lawsuit against the city. That lawsuit was settled in late 2009 and effective January 1, 2010 the city accommodated the firemen and began a new pay plan which they requested and is in accordance with FLSA 7(k).
“The basics of the pay plan are as follows. Firemen are paid on a guaranteed salary basis plus overtime and callbacks with Holidays included in salary base plus all other city benefits. In late 2010 the same firemen who have filed the 2012 lawsuit also filed a city grievance demanding that they be paid Holiday pay in addition to their guaranteed salary and overtime. The city denied that request and subsequently received a letter from the firemen’s attorney in early 2011 making similar pay plan change demands. The city thoroughly reviewed the pay plan again with our labor law attorneys and a consultant with over 40 years actual experience with the Federal Department of Labor and the city once again concluded that the new pay plan was compliant with federal law and accommodated pay plan that the firemen requested in the 2009 lawsuit.
“Ironically, the 2012 lawsuit filed by current firemen Gus Bellamy, Vernon McKinnon, Wayne Covington, Michael Meginnis, and Troy Sorrell now basically seeks to revert their pay plan back to the way they were paid in 2009. These firemen are also claiming that it was retaliation on the part of the city to change their pay plan in 2010 as they had requested and seek to involve the way policemen are paid now as part of their dispute. The City will vigorously defend itself against claims made by these firemen in their lawsuit and as such has filed motion today to have this lawsuit moved to Federal Court for adjudication,” Crump’s statement concludes.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.