Dozens of Chesterfield County deputies and police officers are suing the county, claiming they were not properly compensated for overtime they worked.
A group of 71 officers filed suit in Chesterfield Circuit Court on Friday, claiming the county violated a 2005 state law that sets the overtime rate, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Although they say the amount of compensation owed to them is unknown, they estimate it could exceed $5 million. A provision of the law would make the county liable for double the amount of unpaid compensation for each officer, plus attorneys’ fees.
The suit also seeks $350,000 in punitive damages for the county’s alleged misconduct in ignoring state law.
“We’re not out to get some huge jackpot,” said Master Deputy Sheriff Ben M. Lent, the lead plaintiff. “All we’re asking for is what is owed to us.”
Chesterfield spokesman Don Kappel said the county attorney’s office had not seen the filing and could not comment.
The large majority of the plaintiffs are current Chesterfield sheriff’s deputies, but co-plaintiffs include at least one current police officer and a few former deputies and police officers, Lent said.
The suit alleges the county refused to pay the officers for hours they worked between their standard 28-day pay cycle, or 160 hours, and the 171-hour threshold for overtime set by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
But Lent points to the 2005 law, championed by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli when he was a senator, which requires localities employing at least 100 law-enforcement officers to pay them overtime at a rate of at least 1½ times their regular rate of pay for all hours between the federal statutory maximum of 171 and the hours for which the officer receives his salary, which in this case would be 160 hours.
Lent said several other Virginia jurisdictions have been faced with similar issues. At least two of them — Albemarle and Loudoun counties, settled with the officers, he said.