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Lee County Sheriff's Office found liable for willful failure to pay overtime

Lee County Sheriff's Office
Posted at 5:40 PM, Dec 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-23 23:10:09-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A Lee County jury last week found that the Lee County Sheriff’s Office violated the federal law requiring the payment of overtime, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), by willfully denying compensation to Joseph Caiazza, a deputy, for overtime hours he worked from December 2015 to August 2017.

Represented by Morgan & Morgan, Caiazza sought to recover unpaid overtime wages he was denied by the Sheriff’s Office between December 2015 and August 2017. He was a well-respected deputy, who was awarded Officer of Year multiple times throughout his career.

During Caiazza's employment, the Sheriff’s Office enforced a de facto policy that prevented deputies from recording any time worked over 84 hours during their two week pay period, despite the fact that deputies were required to be working or on call 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

The jury awarded Caiazza the full amount he sought to recover, including damages based on a finding that the Sheriff’s Office knew or recklessly disregarded whether its conduct violated the FLSA. Because the jury found that the violation of the FLSA was willful, Caiazza is also likely to be awarded double damages available under the law.

“Every working person deserves fair pay for the hours they work,” said Morgan & Morgan attorneys Andrew Frisch and Angeli Murthy, who represented Caiazza. “We are pleased that the jury saw this egregious and willful wage violation and awarded former Deputy Caiazza, a decorated and respected deputy, the compensation he earned serving the citizens of Lee County.”

This verdict is notable as it was the result of only a handful of in-person jury trials in the state of Florida since the courts closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The case was heard in the United States District Court Middle District of Florida, Fort Myers Division.