The investigators had fixed salaries that ranged from about $45,000 to a little more than $50,000 per year, Walker said. They did not receive overtime pay for on-call hours, according to the lawsuit, which claims they were not exempt from overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
While on call, the investigators were required to keep their cell phones on at all times, stay close to Gwinnett County and refrain from drinking alcohol, the lawsuit said. They could not take weekend trips out of state and often turned down activities such as concerts, sporting events, weddings and baptisms because of the possibility work would call them away, according to the lawsuit.
“They were not able to freely use their time,” Walker said. “Because you get a salary, that doesn’t mean your employer gets to abuse your time and make you work around the clock a couple days a week.”
Most of the employees went into the job unaware of the requirements for receiving overtime pay, but later began to sense something was wrong, Walker said. The lawsuit alleges an employee told Terry that the investigators were entitled to overtime pay but she and the firm disregarded the information and failed to research it adequately.
Terry and one of her attorneys, Michael Pugh of Thompson O’Brien Kappler & Nasuti, declined to comment on the lawsuit while it is pending.
Terry has worked since 2006 as Gwinnett’s chief medical examiner. The county is currently paying her firm almost $130,000 per month, according to a spokesman, or nearly $1.6 million annualized.
The investigators are seeking to be paid 1.5 times their hourly rate for every hour they were on call, damages in an amount equal to the back pay, interest, attorneys’ fees and costs. The amount they are claiming has not yet been determined, Walker said.