PLAISTOW — Superintendent Earl Metzler has filed a lawsuit against School Administrative Unit 55 claiming he is owed overtime and unused vacation pay in addition to the $92,364.22 compensatory buyout he received earlier this year.
The lawsuit filed in Rockingham Superior Court on Nov. 15 states that he and other employees are being paid for compensatory time at a straight rate rather than time and a half. He said it has been a longstanding school policy to pay compensatory time, overtime and unused vacation days at a rate of time and a half, even for exempt employees.
Metzler is a salaried employee and the highest paid superintendent in the state with a base salary of $171,286, according to the New Hampshire Department of Education,
The lawsuit seeks what Metzler says he is still owed, about $50,000, plus liquidated damages and attorney’s fees.
The lawsuit cites the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 which, among other things, establishes overtime standards. Many salaried employees are exempt from this law, however SAU55 adopted Policy DKD in 2016 which allows employees exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act to earn time-and-a-half pay for overtime hours.
Earlier this year, the SAU 55 School Board voted to end its policy of providing compensatory time to administrators.
“This policy has been in place for decades,” Metzler said. “All of the employees were eligible. I worked a lot more than I actually reported, but they changed the policy — the benefit they were offering.”
Shawn O'Neil, chairman of the Timberlane School Board, said Metzler is not entitled to time-and-a-half pay.
“We disagree with it,” O’Neil said. “There is no policy that says time and a half. We will be defending this in court if need be.”
According to the lawsuit, the board voted to end Metzler’s right to earn compensatory time June 24. Metzler then requested the board pay him his accrued compensatory time and “it was determined that payments of Dr. Metzler's compensatory time had been paid at a rate of straight time.”
Metzler said he was given no explanation.
"They denied it and when I asked why, they wouldn’t say. They were refusing and not citing any legal reason. This is a simple wage claim that was blown out of proportion,” Metzler said.
Metzler said the more than $100,000 in compensatory time he has accrued over the past few years is about the equivalent of being paid straight time for one day a month over the past seven-plus years.
“I can assure you I work many more days than one extra a month,” Metzler said.
He said he often works weekends, nights and on vacation. He said he remembered a trip to Disney World when he worked several hours.
Metzler tried to work the issue out with the board privately, he said, but members were unwilling to compromise and he was left with no choice but to file suit.
“The purpose wasn’t to make people upset. I just really want a reason from them. They should honor it,” Metzler said. “I feel obligated, not only for myself, but for other employees as well. I knew this would be ugly and if I do this maybe I can help others. And I’ll take the public criticism for that.”
Kim Farrah, chairman of the SAU55 School Board, was not able to be reached for comment.
SAU 55 is comprised of the Timberlane and Hampstead school districts. Metzler is superintendent for both.