December 2, 2020 11:17 AM
The following is a press release provided to us by the attorney’s office of Hecht, Walker, Jordan, P.C.
Rockdale County and the Rockdale County Sheriff have agreed to pay over $1.1 million to resolve the claims asserted by 174 current and former sheriff deputies for back pay, liquidated damages and attorney fees due to unpaid work they performed. The Plaintiffs’ claims arose from alleged violations of the wage and hour provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Atlanta attorneys Greg Hecht of Hecht Walker, P.C. and Daniel Ragland of the Ragland Law Firm, LLC represented the class which included 127 jail detention officers, 43 patrol officers and 4 school resource officers.
According to the collective action Lawsuit filed in the Rockdale County Superior Court, Rockdale County and the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office allegedly failed to compensate the Plaintiffs for their attendance at mandatory pre-shift roll calls, which usually lasted 15-minutes, and for work they performed immediately following the end of their shifts. The Lawsuit covered a three year time period between July 2015 and August 2018.
As part of the settlement, each of the 174 officers will receive a settlement check for “back pay” which compensates that officer for the total amount of time he or she spent attending mandatory roll calls and performing post shift work during the three year class period. The “back pay” award includes both regular and overtime compensation. In addition, each officer will receive a separate settlement check for “liquidated damages” which represents a doubling of the “back pay’ award. The Fair Labor Standards Act mandates the payment of “liquidated damages” as the penalty the employer pays for violating the wage and hour provisions of that federal statute.
Attorney Greg Hecht was gratified that a favorable settlement was achieved. “I was proud to represent these hard working officers, and I appreciated the County and its Sheriff for their willingness to see that our clients are fairly compensated for all of the work they performed on behalf of the citizens of Rockdale County.” Attorney Hecht also emphasized that Rockdale County was also paying all of the Plaintiffs’ attorney fees and litigation expenses. He explained, “During negotiations with the County, we wanted to ensure that our attorney fees would be paid separately so that each officer would receive 100% of their back pay and liquidated damages.”
The process of reaching settlement took place over a two year period. In July 2018, attorneys representing the Plaintiffs notified Rockdale County of their intent to pursue claims under the FLSA due to the County’s failure to compensate its deputies for time spent in mandatory pre-shift roll calls. Approximately one month later, Rockdale County agreed to change its long standing payroll practice of not including the 15 minute roll call period for purposes of calculating regular wages and overtime compensation. In addition to making this policy change, Rockdale County agreed to begin having negotiations that ultimately led to the settlement that was formerly approved by the Honorable Robert Mumford, Rockdale County Superior Court Judge, on November 17, 2020.
Attorney Daniel Ragland was adamant that getting the County to start paying deputies for their roll call time was important. He said, “Making sure that going forward, all deputies would be fully compensated for all work performed was the primary objective of our bringing this case, and Rockdale County should be commended for doing the right thing by changing its payroll policy to comply with federal wage and hour laws.” Mr. Ragland explained that under the FLSA statute, the maximum period for the recovery of back pay is three years, so the Lawsuit that was pursued by the 174 officers sought back pay for work performed during the three year period preceding August 2018, the date Rockdale County began paying wages for time spent in roll calls.
This is the second successful roll call collective action that attorneys Greg Hecht and Daniel Ragland have pursued on behalf of law enforcement officers. Between the two actions, Hecht and Ragland have secured compensation for over 500 law enforcement officers for unpaid roll call time. In 2018, these attorneys reached a settlement of a similar case in Clayton County involving more than 340 officers working for the Clayton County Police Department and Clayton County Sheriff’s Office. That case also involved claims that the failure to pay wages for time spent attending mandatory pre-shift roll calls was a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. In that case, Clayton County agreed to pay more than $1.5 million in back pay, liquidated damages and attorney fees.