Commonwealth Journal

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April 15, 2014

Judge rules for city in overtime case

Dispute with state was over benefits, overtime pay for firefighters, EMS workers

Somerset —

A circuit judge has found in favor of Somerset in a long-standing fight between the city and the state involving overtime pay and other benefits for firefighters and EMS workers. 
During Monday’s Somerset City Council meeting, Mayor Eddie Girdler announced that Pulaski Circuit Court Judge David A. Tapp last month ruled in favor of the city in a legal battle that has stretched on since 2009. 
“It’s the state’s problem, the (labor cabinet’s) problem, not Somerset’s problem, and it never has been,” said Girdler. “It’s great news for Somerset. (It) vindicates us, that we were right all along.”
The case between the city and the Kentucky Labor Cabinet made its way to Pulaski Circuit Court in March 2013, about four years after the labor cabinet stated that Somerset had violated Kentucky’s wage and hour laws. 
At the center of Somerset’s legal battle with the state was approximately $350,000 in unpaid overtime wages, plus retirement benefits paid to the retirement board, bringing the grand total to about $500,000. The issue was whether the city had calculated the overtime pay correctly in dealing with emergency workers, who operate on a different schedule than a normal 40-hour work week. 
According to Tapp’s opinion, issued on March 26, Somerset calculated the overtime pay a certain way between the early 1990s and July 2000, but changed the formula after receiving a memo from the labor cabinet in July 1998 that mandated the pay be calculated differently. 
In 2009, the state said the formula city officials had been using since 2000 was incorrect and violated state wage and hour laws. 
Somerset officials, Tapp stated, had been using “the method that the Cabinet now argues Somerset should have always used” before following instructions as outlined in the state memo. 
The state’s 2009 findings followed on the heels of a 2007 case in which the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled that the City of Louisville had to pay overtime based on a 40-hour work week, in contrast to previous directions by the Kentucky Department of Labor. 

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