Fayette County

City, jail guards settle lawsuit

The city will probably pay more than $2 million to settle an overtime pay lawsuit involving more than 300 current and former Fayette County Detention Center corrections officers.

The city has agreed to pay the corrections officers $1.15 million in cash and paid leave time. The city will also pay the corrections officers' attorneys' fees, which could be as much as $870,000.

As part of a proposed settlement, the city will make policy changes at the jail, which include longer lunch breaks and paying officers for their lunch breaks if they are required to work.

The settlement won't be finalized until an Oct. 14 hearing before U.S. District Judge Jennifer Coffman, who must approve the agreement and determine how much the attorneys are owed.

In addition to the settlement, the city also must pay attorneys from Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs who were hired to represent the city. Those costs were not available Thursday.

The lawsuit, filed in 2006 during Mayor Teresa Isaac's administration, alleges that the city engaged in multiple longstanding, widespread 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 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.

"Our goal when we filed the lawsuit was to assure that the employees get a real bona fide meal break and that they were paid for the time they work," said attorney Tom Miller, who represents the corrections officers. "The city is committed to both."

Corrections officers will have 30-minute lunch breaks once the policy changes are in place. Work duties during those breaks will be limited to emergencies, Miller said.

If officers begin working before the start of their shift, or if they work past their shift, they will be paid overtime, Miller said.

As part of the settlement, the city will pay the 316 corrections officers $805,000 in cash and $345,000 worth of paid leave time. The formula for providing back pay has not yet been made public.

Current officers will be paid a combination of cash and leave time, Miller said. Former officers will receive cash.

The city will use $275,000 in insurance money to pay for part of the settlement, said Susan Straub, Mayor Jim Newberry's spokeswoman. The rest of the money will come from a risk management fund and the general fund, the city's main operating account.

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 by former inmates who allege abuse at the hands of guards.