Class-action suit puts Colorado State University on hook to repay up to 1,500 low-wage workers

CSU was sued by a former minimum-wage employee, who is now among more than 1,500 workers eligible for repayment of lost wages from the university. (Photo by Austin Fleskes)
CSU was sued by a former minimum-wage employee, who is now among more than 1,500 workers eligible for repayment of lost wages from the university. (Photo by Austin Fleskes)

Colorado State University has agreed to pay potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid overtime wages to more than 1,500 current and former school employees, many of them low-wage workers.

The settlement agreement, reached last week, stems from a class-action suit filed in early 2018 by Devin Banton, who was a translator in CSU’s Resources for Disabled Students office. He alleged improper pay for overtime work, and his suit was filed on behalf of more than 1,500 other former and current university staffers.

Banton, as lead plaintiff, made several claims, including:

  • CSU was miscalculating overtime: For example, he argued, someone could put in 45 hours of work one week — that’s 5 hours of overtime, which is to be paid out at 1.5 times the worker’s regular wage — and then work 35 hours the following week. In total, that’s 80 hours — a standard, full-time slate for a two-week pay period. The problem, Banton said, is that he wasn’t being compensated for the overtime he’d put in during such pay periods, and was instead being paid as though he’d worked 80 hours of non-overtime. Banton alleged that this miscalculation was a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • CSU wasn’t giving sufficient comp time for people who’d worked overtime: Workers who put in extra hours could also be eligible for “comp time” the following week to make up for the extra hours. But, the lawsuit alleged, workers putting in 45-hour weeks were given five hours off the following week, which does not sufficiently reflect the fact that the 5 overtime hours they worked should be equivalent to 7.5 hours of comp time at the overtime rate.
  • Timecard issues: In some cases, Banton and others said, workers would be required to keep their official recorded hours below overtime limits. This, the suit contended, led to underpayment for some workers.

The more than 1,500 individuals involved in this class action came from about 40 different CSU departments.

The university, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday, agreed in front of a federal judge magistrate to settle Banton’s suit, and now all others involved in the suit will be notified that they are eligible to receive payments from CSU to make up for any lost pay. Submitted claims will be evaluated by the judge.

“I think we’re gonna see claims that run from a hundred bucks to a couple thousand, or more,” said David Miller, the Denver-based attorney for the plaintiffs. “The point of this all is to get people paid what they’re owed.”

In the settlement agreement, the university maintained denial of “any and all allegations of wrongdoing” — with “minor exceptions.”

CSU spokesman Mike Hooker also issued a statement, chalking up the unpaid wages to miscalculation.

“CSU aims to be the workplace of choice in our region,” the statement read. “When CSU learns that errors may have occurred in the calculation of compensation for an employee, it strives to determine the facts and correct any errors.  As part of that effort, we are actively involved in discussions with counsel to ensure that our employees receive full compensation for work performed.

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