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Two Virginia troopers suing state for OT pay; they are not alone, says suit and police association

Two Virginia troopers suing state for OT pay; they are not alone, says suit and police association

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RTD A1 - Dec. 7, 2021

Two Virginia troopers have filed a lawsuit against the state saying the Virginia State Police has not paid them for overtime work dating back to January 2021.

One trooper has not been paid for overtime he earned while assisting U.S. Capitol Police following the Jan. 6 rally at the nation’s Capitol building, according to Caleb Jones, an attorney with Simms Showers law firm in Leesburg, who represents troopers Thomas Wilson and Kevin Teter and “similarly situated” members of the Virginia State Police chapter of the Virginia Police Benevolent Association.

While only two troopers are specifically named as plaintiffs in the civil suit filed Friday, the attorney and police association representing them say nearly 30 other troopers are experiencing the same pay backlog.

Virginia State Police declined to comment through a spokeswoman, who said the agency cannot comment on pending litigation.

“There is a pattern of late payment and delayed payment,” said Jones on Tuesday. “These troubles began sometime in January, and they still have not been made whole.”

The suit states that Wilson, who responded to the riot in Washington, D.C., is owed $702.51 for unpaid overtime between December 2020 and July 2021. During that same period, he earned more than $5,000 in overtime.

Teter is owed $558.21, according to the suit. Between January and August 2021, he earned more than $7,000 in overtime.

Jones explained that while some overtime has been paid out, it is sporadic and does not reflect all the hours worked. The suit alleges the failure to pay for work done breaches the troopers’ contracts with the state police, violates Fair Labor laws and entitles them to claims under Virginia’s Wage Theft Act.

“At least 27 members have been affected by the overtime pay crisis that started as early as January 2021 within the Virginia State Police,” the Virginia Police Benevolent Association said in a statement on Monday. “At this time, Virginia State Police Chapter members are still continuing to report missing overtime payments with every pay period that goes by.”

Jones and the PBA said that before filing the civil action, they contacted state police officials, as well as officials within the state government, in an attempt to correct the issues. Despite some acknowledgement that pay issues existed, the state still has not paid the troopers, Jones said.

In May, the PBA chapter president called the backlog “unreasonably” and “financially burdensome” in a letter to Col. Gary T. Settle, superintendent of state police.

It has “created numerous financial problems with employees and their families who rely on getting paid on scheduled pay dates,” wrote Daniel M. Garasimowicz in that letter, which was included among the lawsuit’s exhibits. “It seems unreasonably burdensome that employees should have to wait an additional month to receive some compensation for work already performed.”

In July, the Human Resources Division of the State Police issued a memo to all employees which was attached to the complaint, that there were issues with processing overtime and meal payments for three weeks in June. The memo promised employees “should be paid the appropriate amounts” by July 16.

In August, the state’s comptroller, David A. Von Moll, responded to an inquiry from Jones about the persisting problems. Von Moll’s response, which was filed with the court documents, said no troopers that Jones had inquired about had been underpaid between May and July, but it went on to say there were discrepancies stemming from inaccurate time sheets submitted by the troopers.

“Many of the discrepancies have been resolved and either have been, or will soon be, paid,” said the comptroller, who is responsible for oversight of the state’s finances.

On Tuesday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced his proposed budget for fiscal years 2023 and 2024 includes pay raises for some public safety officials, among them, new state troopers. But the proposal did not address the overtime issue.

The state gave one-time bonuses of up to $5,000 to public safety officials in 2021, in addition to a one-time bonus of $500 in 2020.

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