County sued for overtime pay

Library employees told not to discuss wages, suit claims
Apr. 30, 2013 @ 11:12 PM

A former employee of the public library system is suing Sevier County, and the attorney filing the suit is seeking other county employees to join it as a class action.

Benjamin Grimshaw, a former library assistant, claims he regularly worked more than 40 hours a week, but the county did not pay him overtime, although he was paid an hourly rate of $10.04 per hour — a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The lawsuit was filed in federal court Monday.

“Defendant regularly and repeated (sic) worked its employees, including Mr. Grimshaw, over forty hours per work week,” attorney Jesse Nelson wrote. “There was, however, no mechanism by which defendant or its employees kept track of hours worked. Rather, employees were paid based on the length of their shift as shown on the work schedule, not based on the amount of time actually worked. Defendant maintained no time clock or other procedure by which to record employees’ time.”

He is seeking the pay he claims he was owed, as well as damages for wrongful firing and violation of the Tennessee Public Protection Act. He isn’t asking for a specific amount, but is asking that the total he is owed be determined in court.

County Mayor Larry Waters declined to comment, noting the complaint was just filed.

In January of this year, according to the complaint, Grimshaw asked Library Director Rhonda Tippett why he and other employees weren’t being paid overtime. The lawsuit claims Tippet told him he and the other employees were salaried and weren’t entitled overtime. Tippett could not be reached for comment.

At that point, he says, he filed a complaint with the Department of Labor and emailed other employees to encourage them to look into their rights under the FLSA, Nelson wrote.

After that email circulated, he and other employees were told in a meeting they were not to discuss wage issues among themselves. In March, Grimshaw was fired for “inability to interact effectively with coworkers.”

jfarrell@themountainpress.com