Judge backs state’s extended workweek for Sandy

Sunday, May 26, 2013
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— Expanding the definition of a normal workweek for state employees responding to Superstorm Sandy last fall has been validated by a judge.

On behalf of almost 14,500 of its members, the Public Employee Federation filed a suit in February, claiming the state authorized overtime hours for employees responding to the weather emergency but failed to pay for the extra work. State Supreme Court Justice Joseph C. Teresi ruled on May 14 that the state acted appropriately when it approved overtime hours at a minimum threshold beyond what employees usually worked.

Because of the “extreme emergency” caused by Sandy, the state Division of Budget had made some overtime-ineligible employees eligible for overtime, but overtime pay didn’t kick in until the employee worked 471⁄2 hours for the week. This extended week was seven to 10 hours longer than what most employees normally worked, so the PEF suit alleged they should have been compensated above their normal rate for those hours.

Teresi ruled that the state’s interpretation of a 471⁄2 hour work week as a “normal workweek” was within their power.

The state Division of Budget declined to comment on the ruling.

A refusal by the state Department of Health to pay any overtime to employees promised overtime wages was invalidated by Teresi. The issue is sent back to the department, which will need to come into compliance with the state directive that initially authorized overtime for ineligible employees.

Teresi added that any of PEF’s additional complaints in the suit lacked merit or were now moot.

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