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A Lancaster County District Court judge has ruled in favor of the state of Nebraska on an overtime pay dispute involving a state hospital worker, and at the same time denied a renewed motion to certify the state's Regional Center workers as a class for that complaint. 

Brian Lassalle, a longtime Regional Center employee, had alleged in a 2017 lawsuit against the state, its regional centers and youth rehabilitation centers, that he and other workers at those centers were being denied overtime pay they had earned. 

At the time, Lassalle worked as a security specialist and medication aide at the state psychiatric hospital.

He contended that starting in July 2016, he and other hourly rate employees at state-run hospitals had been denied pay for earned and approved paid time off when the hours exceeded 40 hours in a week. For example, if Lassalle worked 32 hours Monday through Thursday, took eight hours of paid leave Friday, then was required to work eight hours Saturday, the state would only pay him for 40 hours, not 48.

Lassalle's attorney, Kathleen Neary, said the state and its hospitals were willingly violating Nebraska's wage payment and collection act. 

She twice sought to have the case certified as a class-action lawsuit and asked a judge to declare the state's conduct a violation of workers' rights, to order the state to stop the practice and to compensate workers for the wages due, plus interest. 

Employees of the Regional Center work under two types of pay periods: Some have a two-week pay period and others a one-week period. While one-week pay period employees and some two-week pay period employees in the past had been allowed to record leave time in excess of hours in the pay period, as of June 2016, that stopped, the court was told. 

Overtime is allowed, but only for hours worked above the 40 hours already worked, not for leave time above 40 hours worked. 

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District Judge John Colborn said in the ruling that the employment contracts do not show that the Department of Health and Human Services agreed to pay employees for leave time in excess of 40 or 80 hours per pay period. 

When the court decided on that issue, it said, the renewed motion for class certification was moot. 

Also, the ruling said: "That the plaintiff now wishes that he had asked different questions, deposed different witnesses, or made different arguments does not persuade the court to delay this matter further." 

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature.

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