Lieutenant Sues Ohio University, PD Over Wage Dispute

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An Ohio University police lieutenant has filed a federal lawsuit against OU asserting that he is due overtime pay for part of the time he spent on paid administrative leave.

Christopher Johnson filed the lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court, naming the university and the Ohio University Police Department as defendants.

Johnson was on paid administrative leave from Aug. 2, 2012 to July 26, 2013 while the university investigated allegations of inappropriate on-duty conduct. During that time, Johnson was required to be available to OU by telephone weekdays during the university's business hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., which amounts to nine hours per day or 45 hours per week.

The lawsuit claims Johnson was in "engaged to be waiting" status. Under certain circumstances, an employee is due compensation for work-related waiting.

According to the lawsuit, Johnson was paid for 40 hours per week while on leave.

"Defendants failed to pay wages to (Johnson) in the amount actually earned in an amount equal to one and a half times his hourly rate for all hours worked over 40 hours per week," the lawsuit asserts.
Johnson's base salary is $32.84 per hour, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks the back pay Johnson claims he is owed, plus attorney fees and court costs.

A university spokeswoman declined to comment on the lawsuit.

"The university does not comment on pending litigation," spokeswoman Katie Quaranta said in an email to The Messenger.

Last summer, a pre-disciplinary hearing was held regarding allegations against Johnson of: not speaking the truth while being questioned for an investigation, abuse of position, misconduct and neglect of duty. Johnson denied the allegations, but the hearing officer concluded they had been substantiated. Johnson was taken off paid administrative leave and given a two-day unpaid suspension, according to a letter to Johnson written at the time by Deborah Shaffer, OU senior associate vice president for finance and administration.

Documents indicate that the investigation involved an allegation that, while they were on duty, Johnson had applied heating pads to the neck and shoulders of a female subordinate after she had taken off her outer uniform shirt. She had also made an allegation of sexual harassment, but Chief Andrew Powers told the hearing officer it could not be substantiated by the department's investigation.