Richmond DSS employees sue City over unpaid overtime

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Two employees are now suing Richmond's troubled Department of Social Services, accusing it of failing to pay overtime.

The DSS workers say the city has violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The lawsuit, obtained by NBC12, says they regularly work more than forty, often up to fifty hours a week and the agency hasn't paid them overtime for those extra hours.

Now, those two workers want officials to pay up. Joann Lewis and Luke Strong are both "family services specialists" tasked with investigating possible abuse of Richmond's most vulnerable citizens--the children and senior citizens of the city.

The lawsuit gives insight into a scandal we've been telling you about for more than a year. The problems within the Department of Social Services could now cost the city thousands of dollars. The agency, which has been under fire accused of leaving children in dangerous homes, is still working to fix the issues.

The filing alleges there was an "official policy to reduce the number of children placed in foster homes," direction "to close cases regardless of the findings" and "excessive case loads." The totals for Lewis and Strong "necessitated working from home" and "on the weekends."

The documents say the city "misclassified the plaintiffs" and "failed to compensate them for overtime worked."

Now, not only are the two current employees asking for damages, but an order from the court to direct the city to permanently not violate the federal law.

This is not the first time city workers have sued their current employers for unpaid overtime. It took months for lawyers to negotiate a settlement when 614 Richmond Police officers filed suit. It eventually cost Richmond $7 million in taxpayer funds.

Like that case, this DSS suit asks the judge to approve a class group and let other possible plaintiffs know about the complaint.

We asked the mayor's press secretary for a comment on our story. A spokesperson sent a statement which reads, "It is our policy to not comment on pending litigation."

The city has 21 days from when the papers were served to respond in federal court.

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