Lawsuit now includes dozens more workers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 14, 2001

The number of employees suing the Natchez-Adams School District for alleged unpaid overtime has jumped from about 25 to 184, said Superintendent Dr. Carl Davis.

The increase is in part due to a judge’s order releasing the names of all hourly employees who worked in the school district from Sept 20, 1997, to Sept. 20, 2000, Davis said.

&uot;It gave (the employees) the opportunity to decide whether they want to opt in or not,&uot; said Samuel Brand, an attorney representing the employees.

All of the employees received a letter attached with a form to sign and return if they wanted to participate in the lawsuit. Natchez-Adams School District employees must sign up by Friday.

&uot;The idea is to get everybody in and get it over with,&uot; Brand said.

The suit is part of a Fair Labor Stands Act Lawsuit against school district across the state.

At least 4,000 employees have signed up statewide with Jackson and Greenville have the largest number of plaintiffs with Greenville having about 300.

Depending on their location, the employees have different deadlines to join the lawsuit, Brand said.

Davis said he worries that sending letters to all hourly employees past and present created a deluge of cases.

&uot;The problem with that is you have a lot of frivolous lawsuits,&uot; he said.

Of the 184 employees suing the Natchez-Adams School District, Davis said many of them are not current employees of the district, and he thinks many of them may not have legitimate claims.

Attorneys have told them the Natchez-Adams School District it has kept good records to assist in the lawsuit, he said.

&uot;I feel we’ve got a good chance of winning most of those things,&uot; Davis said.

And the school district does not plan to pay people filing suit not due overtime, Davis said.

In interviewing employees across the state, Brand says he sees a similar pattern.

&uot;People tell the same story,&uot; he said.

He has heard stories of teachers’ aides having to eat lunch while monitoring their children and custodians called into work on weekends or called in to work while they are on lunch. These are all examples of violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, Brand said.

&uot;They’re just not compensating them properly and we find that some schools are still violating the law&uot; Brand said.

Brand said attorneys for the employees are already working with about five school districts to settle the lawsuit and he thinks other districts should consider doing the same..

&uot;If you owe (them) you owe them,&uot; he said. &uot;If you don’t, you don’t.&uot;

And settling would save time and money, Brand said.