Fayette County

City settles overtime pay suit by jail officers

The city has settled a lawsuit about overtime pay for more than 300 current and former Fayette County Detention Center corrections officers.

The details of the settlement — including the total amount — will not be made public until a hearing next week before U.S. District Judge Jennifer Coffman, who must approve the agreement.

Attorney Tom Miller, who represents the corrections officers, confirmed Thursday that the lawsuit was settled earlier this month.

The lawsuit alleges that the city engaged in longstanding, widespread and multiple violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards act and the Kentucky Wage and Hours Act.

Corrections officers were often asked to perform job duties while on their 20-minute lunch breaks but were not paid for the breaks. Officers also were not paid if they had to come in early or had to stay after their eight-hour shifts. Some higher-ranking officers at the jail were required to take compensatory time — additional hours off — instead of overtime.

As part of the settlement, the jail must change its policies to pay people for their lunch breaks if they are required to work, Miller said.

The city had argued that it had not knowingly violated any federal or state labor laws. But the city lost on several key motions — including whether the case could be opened to all current and former jailers.

Eventually, 316 current and former corrections officers joined the lawsuit. Those officers will receive some compensation for previously worked overtime. The formula for providing back pay has not yet been made public.

Susan Straub, spokeswoman for Mayor Jim Newberry, declined to comment on the settlement.

The settlement is just one of many legal troubles surrounding the Fayette County Detention Center. Earlier this year, four current officers and one former officer were indicted on charges that they beat inmates at the facility and then covered it up.

Also, the jail has been named in several civil lawsuits filed by former inmates who allege abuse at the hands of guards.

Miller said the settlement is final but must be approved by Coffman. A hearing is scheduled for Sept. 4 in federal court in Lexington.

Miller said corrections officers are finally getting what has long been due.

"These are people that are educated, dedicated, hard-working, loyal, underpaid and very smart. They do a job that I could never do myself," Miller said. "That's the reason that my law firm accepted this job. It's because we believed in the people, and we believed in their cause."