Editor's note: This message was posted on the town website Saturday.
It has recently been brought to the attention of Town officials that an article written on a private group facebook page, authored and maintained by a FORMER Selectman, alleges many false statements and known half truths with the intention to misinform those willing to listen through slanderous comments and accusations.
We officials of the Town have maintained a position of professionalism by not responding to the lies and slander that are continuously propagated through these privately owned group facebook pages. We seperate ourselves from the ongoing drama that certain individuals try to continuously perpetuate. However, due to the nature of this accusation and the impact that it has on honest, hardworking personnel and officials, it is necessary to respond and important to set the record straight. Below is a copy of the posting. The documented truth will then be posted in an attempt to answer some questions that some members of the public have been asking. We hope this helps.
BREAKING NEWS! Lebanon Fire Chief under investigation for Department of Labor/FLSA violations.
We have learned at 3:30pm from a resident that Chief Dan Meehan has been violating Maine Labor Laws, and having the violations of law signed off by Selectman Ben Thompson.
This response was sent to a Lebanon resident from the Maine Department of Labor this afternoon, prompting a request to the State to conduct an investigation.
"Maine Labor Law does not exempt EMT's from minimum wage or from overtime. On-call time paid when work is not actually being performed would not need to be counted in hours worked. Once the employee was called in then the time performing their job should be included on the time record and could result in overtime hours due for the workweek."
Windy Rudnicki, girlfriend of the Chief, has been working over 40 hours a week almost every week since paid staff coverage was established in July. You will notice on the sheets that there is a paid shift, then night shift paid coverage and then at the end of the month an additional stipend.
Maine and Federal Labor Laws require anyone who does 40 hours or more to get paid overtime. This includes the paid shifts during the day coverage and hours that they respond to during the night shift when they are paid, or when they respond after hours if those hours put the person over 40 hours.
This came to light after a resident overheard Windy Rudnicki say that she was going to put in for one large check to cover all overtime. Additionally, under town personnel policies, Windy may be eligible for benefits including town paid health insurance, retirement and more.
Maine Department of Labor officials advised the resident of the process to file a complaint, including filing a formal complaint with the town. Information has also been submitted to the United States Department of Labor. The citizen has advised that he filed a formal complaint with the Selectmen, as now the town is open to steep fines.
Let us break this down line by line.
A.) The article alleges via "Breaking News" that the Fire Chief and Selectman Thompson are under investigation by the State of Maine Department of Labor for Federal Labor Standards violations?!?
- TheTown is NOT under any investigation by the Maine Department of Labor, or the U.S. Department of Labor.
- Any "investigation" into applicable labor law has been being done by Selectmen Thompson, Treasurer Lemay, and Chief Meehan as we continue to review the full time equivalency and seek answers to questions in regard to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare)
B.) The article states that it was learned at 3:30pm (posted November 13th) from a resident that Chief Dan Meehan has been violating Maine Labor Laws, and having the violations of law signed off by Selectman Ben Thompson.
- Please see "Formal Complaint" email attachment to see who the "resident" is who contacted Maine DOL about Federal labor law
- Did you know....one selectman DID NOT and can NOT approve any payroll warrant by himself? Warrants must be signed by a majority of the Board of Selectmen.
Title 30-A: MUNICIPALITIES AND COUNTIES HEADING: PL 1987, C. 737, PT. A, §2 (NEW)
Part 2: MUNICIPALITIES HEADING: PL 1987, C. 737, PT. A, §2 (NEW)
Subpart 9: FISCAL MATTERS HEADING: PL 1987, C. 737, PT. A, §2 (NEW)
Chapter 221: MUNICIPAL TREASURER HEADING: PL 1987, C. 737, PT. A, §2 (NEW)
5603. Powers and duties
The treasurer has the following powers and duties. [1987, c. 737, Pt. A, §2 (NEW); 1987, c. 737, Pt. C, §106 (NEW); 1989, c. 6, (AMD); 1989, c. 9, §2 (AMD); 1989, c. 104, Pt. C, §§8, 10 (AMD).]2. Duties. The treasurer shall:
A. Except as provided in subparagraphs (1) to (3), and except as otherwise provided by charter or ordinance, disburse money only on the authority of a warrant drawn for the purpose, affirmatively voted and signed by a majority of the municipal officers.
C.) This response was sent to a Lebanon resident from the Maine Department of Labor this afternoon, prompting a request to the State to conduct an investigation.
- State Department of Labor reviews and investigates STATE LAW; the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) reviews and investigates FEDERAL LABOR STANDARDS. (As may be seen under "Formal Complaint" email attachment when Verna Eldridge from Maine Dept of Labor directs the complaintant to the "USDOL". Dated November 13, 2015 3:43pm)
D.) "Maine Labor Law does not exempt EMT's from minimum wage or from overtime. On-call time paid when work is not actually being performed would not need to be counted in hours worked. Once the employee was called in then the time performing their job should be included on the time record and could result in overtime hours due for the workweek."
- This statement is actually quoted accurately from Maine Dept of Labor. Maine Labor Law DOES NOT (and could not) supersede FEDERAL Labor Standards.
- On-call time paid when work is not actually being performed would not need to be counted in hours worked. This element is currently being looked into as to whether minimum wage would be required to be paid according to Federal Labor Standards, or if they would be exempt due to night coverage hours are exercised from the employee's home and not at the fire station. This is a gray area which depends on certain circumstances and whether the employee is "engaged to wait" (which is work time) or "waiting to engage" (which is NOT considered work time). (Please see US Dept of Labor, Fact Sheet #22 attachment)
- The Town is currently looking into whether a $30 weeknight stipend and the $50 weeknight stipend per employee for coverage from their home for fire/ems coverage is fully compliant with FLSA. We believe that we are, but are having the Town Attorneys look into this further due to questions that Selectman Thompson had after attending a class on FLSA on Monday, November 9, 2015. The Town Emergency Departments have always in the past paid on a stipend and points based system. Neither of which may have been compliant to FLSA for these past many years.
- We are continuing to move forward in a positive direction and build a stronger Department and Town structuring based on compliance with both State and Federal laws.
E.) The article continues to attempt to degrade the reputation of one of the most positive firefighter/emt personalities that this Town has had the pleasure of employing. We assure you that these allegations of the "overheard conversation" are completely false. It is a complete and utter shame that this employee, as well as many others, are put in a position of defending their good names and reputations due to published false statements that are damaging to a each one's reputation.
- All information used as proof in the untrue article was obtained via a Right to Know request labeled "Right to Know Request #2" (see attachment)
- The allegations about hours in excess to part time and/or overtime revolve completely around the question of the "on call" night coverage hours that are being researched as to whether they are exempt or not in regard to Federal Labor Standards.
- Exempt night coverage hours depend on what requirements the Town (employer) puts on the employee and if the US DOL decides that they are compensatory.
- All Fire/EMS personnel who cover night shifts are possibly affected, not just one who was targeted with specific libel.
F.) The article alleges that the Town is now open to "steep fines". This is untrue, as well.
- Chief Meehan, Selectman Thompson, and Selectman Heath all attended a class on Federal Labor Standards on Monday, November 9, in which they, as well as close to 80 other individuals from numerous other towns across the State of Maine, walked away having learned something new which needed to be looked into.
- We are looking into these issues before a problem arises. "Steep Fines" only occur after proving willful violations. We are looking to correct any issues on our own initiative.
- Please see US DOL Fact sheet #44 for more information on this issue. http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs44.htm
- Ben Thompson