State Child Protective Services Faces Lawsuit
The U.S. Department of Labor is suing the state’s Child Protective Services for failing to pay workers overtime.
The U.S. Department of Labor began investigating CPS in June of 2008. The lawsuit claims that 800 current and former child protective service investigators and case workers were denied overtime pay. The suit is seeking more than $1 million in back pay plus interest.
The Labor Department didn’t specify what prompted its investigation. But it said it found workers were working “off the clock” under direction from supervisors.
“When you are talking about a violation of 800 person rights you’re going to show some orchestrated campaign by CPS to engage in this story of conduct,” Hersh said. “It’s not going to be one individual. So there’s going to be a lot of testimony, and it’s probably going to have to come from somewhere near the top.”
Texas Child Protective Services released a statement strongly denying the allegations. The statement said the agency has policies and controls in place to make sure workers are paid according to law. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act states that nonexempt employees must receive overtime pay (or time and a half) for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per workweek.
In its statement, CPS said,
“We have not seen the U.S. Department of Labor’s lawsuit, but strongly deny the allegations made public (today) Wednesday June 8, 2011. In discussions leading up to the lawsuit, the federal government has failed to prove that Child Protective Services (CPS) in fact owes any overtime to its workers, and has consistently refused our offer of complete access to our personnel records.
CPS employs hundreds of investigators across the state and they perform vital work protecting children from abuse and neglect. While the unique and mobile nature of their daily routines are challenging, the agency has policies and controls in place to ensure that our workers are properly credited with all time worked, and are paid overtime in compliance with the law.”
Child Protective Services has had a history of large case loads, back logs and high turnover employee rates.
Like all state agencies, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is facing budget cuts. But the workload will likely stay the same. And it’s those situations, employment lawyer Barry Hersh says, that create other tough situations.
“I see this a lot,” Hersh said. “Employers, including state agencies, have tight budgets, but they still have the mission of completing the work that they’ve been delegated.” Kelly White is CEO of the Austin Children’s Shelter. The majority of the children at the shelter are CPS cases, according to White. She explains that the cases consume a lot of the workers’ time.
“They’re cases where you are trying to make unfathomable choices, decisions about people’s lives and the problem is our system is desperately underfunded,” White said.
The Labor Department filed a similar lawsuit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in 2000. The state paid $2 million to parole officers to settle that case.