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South Carolina EMS Employees Sue County over Labor Violations

A group of 26 current and former Charleston County EMS employees has sued the county, claiming it violated federal and state labor laws, including requiring them to work unpaid overtime.

Attorneys Michael Jordan, from the Steinberg Law Firm in Goose Creek, and Amy Gaffney, from Gaffney, Lewis & Edwards in Columbia, filed the suit in federal court Jan. 23.

It claims the county violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act for not compensating employees for overtime. It also claims the county violated state law, including breach of contract and the South Carolina Payment of Wages Act.

Jordan said the employees are suing the county individually, but he has asked a judge to allow the group to proceed as a class as well.

County officials would not comment on the lawsuit.

Per Charleston County policy, we do not comment on the existence or substance of pending mediation, said spokesman Shawn Smetana.

Gaffney said the county required the employees to begin each shift 15 minutes early time for which they were not paid so they could be briefed on what had transpired during the previous shift.

Jordan said there also are issues about employees overall pay. The employees were given an offer letter each year, stating their salary for the year. But on average, the employees made about 5 percent less than their letters stated, he said. We believe this has gone on for years.

The county s system for calculating pay also seems to be flawed, Jordan said. Some clients have told us they have worked the same number of hours from one pay period to the next and their pay is different.

According to the lawsuit, the employees brought the issues to the attention of county administrators, but they were intimidated and coerced to continue working under these unlawful conditions by their immediate supervisors, by the EMS Department upper management, and by the (county s) Human Resources Department.

The employees are seeking all available federal and state remedies, repayment of overtime, attorney fees and court costs, Jordan said.

Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.



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