Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Palo Alto Settles Paralegal's Overtime Claim

The problems with classifying paralegals as non-exempt has begun. The city of Palo Alto has agreed to pay $335,000 to settle one of its paralegal's overtime claims.

Casey O'Neill, a claims investigator and paralegal, will receive $51,107 in unpaid overtime, $51,107 in liquidated damages, $163,320 in attorneys' fees, $26,567 in costs and $42,900 in severance pay, according to a settlement finalized Oct. 18 in the Northern California branch of the U.S. District Court.

O'Neill, who began work as a claims investigator and paralegal in 1993 and sued the city in August 2005, also tendered her resignation, effective June 1, 2008.

In a complaint filed in July, O'Neill's attorneys argued that the city improperly classified her as an employee exempt from being paid overtime because her work did not include "executive, administrative or professional duties."

O'Neill also said she worked at least 55 hours per week, while only being paid for 40 hours, between July 1993 and May 2005. Until then, she received "glowing performance appraisals," according to the complaint, but staff began criticizing her work after she complained.

When O'Neill complained that the city was violating the Fair Labor Standards Act and said she could not finish her tasks, she was suspended for three days without pay in June 2005, according to the complaint.

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