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Spotsy settles overtime pay lawsuit with deputies for $700,000

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Spotsylvania County has reached a $700,000 settlement with about 150 current and former sheriff’s deputies who sued over unpaid overtime.

The county will issue the money—which equates to $526,000 in back pay for the deputies and $174,000 in attorney fees—in installments over the next three years, according to the settlement.

U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson approved the agreement in October.

Deputies will receive varying amounts of back pay, depending on how much overtime they worked, said Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office Maj. Don Thodos, who was among the plaintiffs.

“I think the settlement was fair and amicable in the long run,” he said. “I think at the end of the day, everybody’s satisfied.”

He said he and other deputies received their first checks for unpaid wages last week. The county must deliver the third and final installment of settlement checks by July 15, 2015.

The deputies filed the suit in federal court in January of this year. It named Spotsylvania County and Sheriff Roger Harris as defendants.

The county will pay most of the settlement from reserves, including an initial $300,244 that the Board of Supervisors is set to allocate on Thursday. Insurance will cover $100,000.

The suit alleged that Spotsylvania didn’t follow a 2005 state law requiring it to pay deputies time-and-a-half for hours worked between their standard schedules—160 hours in 28 days—and the 171-hour federal threshold for overtime.

The county says it corrected that issue with gap pay shortly after the suit was filed.

Zev Antell, an attorney for Richmond-based law firm Butler Royals, which represented the plaintiffs, wouldn’t discuss the terms of the settlement but said, “We’re happy to see this matter reach a speedy and fair conclusion.”

The county hired outside counsel to handle the suit. Salem-based attorney Jim Guynn Jr. represented the county, and Richmond-based attorney William Tunner represented Sheriff Harris.

Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors Chairman Paul Trampe said he was happy to see the issue resolved.

“I don’t think anyone disputes that they are entitled to the back overtime pay,” he said in an email. “I just didn’t want to see any punitive damages since it would only be the taxpayers being punished.”

The county offered the deputies two years of unpaid wages in August, though it’s unclear exactly how many years of back pay the final settlement amounts to.

The suit had sought double the amount of unpaid compensation due each deputy as allowed by state law.

Other law enforcement officers throughout the state have filed similar suits. In July 2012, about 600 retired and active Richmond police officers won a $7 million settlement.

The gap-pay law was championed by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli when he was a state senator. Spotsylvania initially opposed it, saying the first-year cost would be $414,000, according to court papers.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402