Eight current and former 911 dispatchers are suing the City of Evanston claiming it failed to provide them legally mandated overtime pay.
The suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, claims the city only paid the dispatchers straight time for working more than 40 hours a week, from 2004 through 2021, rather than time-and-a-half.
While that is 17 years, under the law, damages can only be collected for the past three years at most.
However, the law also allows those damages to be tripled, plus have a 5% premium tacked on for each month in which overtime was not paid.
The suit is structured so that other 9-1-1 dispatchers who are not currently named plaintiffs can opt in. There are currently eight other such “telecommunicators” on the city’s staff.
City payroll records indicate an experienced dispatcher can earn around $45 an hour.
While the suit doesn’t list a specific dollar claim, it appears that if all the dispatchers joined the suit, the city’s potential total liability could top $1.5 million.
The suit alleges “willful” violations of both the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the Illinois Minimum Wage Law.
Specifically, the employees say that they worked regularly scheduled 12-hour shifts, with more than 40 hours one week, fewer than 40 the next week, and repeated that pattern for years.
The allegation is that during the long weeks, each person worked 57.5 hours, but was only paid straight time for the entire shift.
The law, they say, requires overtime past 40 hours a week, so the employees are demanding what should have been the overtime premium for the 17.5-hour period above 40.
The suit also states that in December 2021, “the U.S. Department of Labor conducted an investigation into the City of Evanston’s pay and overtime practices.”
As a result, the lawsuit says, the Labor Department “issued findings that the City of Evanston’s practice of paying only straight time” to 911 dispatchers for work over 40 hours a week violated federal law.
The suit also says that the City of Evanston then notified the dispatchers that they would change pay policies in the future to include overtime above 40 hours.
However, the suit continues, as of the date this complaint was filed, “the City of Evanston has not made any payment to compensate Plaintiffs and other telecommunicators for the years that they were deprived overtime in violation” of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The city had no comment, in line with its policy of not saying anything about pending litigation.