Woman sues former employer who refused to pay overtime for on-call duty

June 28, 1994|By Matt Ebnet | Matt Ebnet,Sun Staff Writer

She wanted to make money while she slept, but her employer said no.

So Susan Tairstein has filed a civil lawsuit in Baltimore County Circuit Court against Jewish Family Services, saying she was refused overtime pay for off-duty hours when she was on call -- time when she could sleep. Jewish Family Services never said it wouldn't pay, the suit says.

Ms. Tairstein, of Upland Road in Northwest Baltimore, was a nighttime counselor for Jewish Family Services Residential and Support Services Department, which the suit says has district offices in Owings Mills and Randallstown.

She is seeking $10,000, legal fees and "general relief." Neither side would elaborate on the action.

"No, you're not going to get comment from me," said a spokeswoman for Jewish Family Services. "That's probably the most inappropriate thing I could probably do."

David L. Dowell, Ms. Tairstein's attorney, declined to comment on the case. He also refused to let his client discuss it.

"It's all there in the suit," he said.

The lawsuit explains it this way: "No exception is made for 'sleep hours' of the type here described unless the parties had an agreement that 'sleep hours' would not be subject to compensation. Here there was no such agreement."

It is unclear whether Ms. Tairstein was fired or quit her job, or how long she had held it.

The suit contends that Ms. Tairstein's employer would pay her for only 40 hours a week. She was on call for an additional 24 hours each week, according to the suit.

That, the suit says, is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires an employer to pay an employee 1 1/2 times the basic hourly wage for work in excess of 40 hours a week.

The act also says that if an employee gets at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep while on call, the employer does not have to compensate for the on-call hours, said George Leoblein, assistant district director of the Wages and Hours Division of the Labor Department.

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