A former extra-help deputy public defender’s lawsuit for back overtime pay from the county suffered a setback Wednesday.
In February 2018 Katherine Schwinghammer sued the Santa Barbara County Public Defender’s Office in Santa Barbara County Superior Court alleging unlawful denial of minimum wage and overtime wages and payment of wages below an agreed hourly rate.
The lawsuit claims she worked as a non-permanent public defender from March 2016 to March 2017.
Ms. Schwinghammer says she was paid $37.65 per hour for eight hours a day and not allowed to record overtime.
The lawsuit claims in 2017 Ms. Schwinghammer met with Public Defender Tracy Macuga who informed the plaintiff she was not chosen for a permanent position, but could continue to work as an extra-help attorney.
During that meeting, Ms. Schwinghammer says she confronted Ms. Macuga about unpaid hours worked and unpaid overtime. She said she regularly worked overtime and on weekends especially when preparing for trial.
Ms. Schwinghammer claims Ms. Macuga told her if she was not happy with her pay she should quit. She was fired four days later.
In a tentative ruling released Wednesday, Judge Donna Geck sustained a Public Defender’s Office motion to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted. Ms. Schwinghammer will be given the opportunity to amend and refile her lawsuit.
Judge Geck is expected to affirm her tentative ruling at a hearing on Friday.
The County argued Ms. Schwinghammer as a lawyer, was exempt from Fair Labor Standards Act minimum wage and overtime requirements.
“…subdivision (d) of Section 541.304 provides that the salary provisions of Section 541.602 “do not apply to employees described in this section” (i.e., attorneys). Thus, plaintiff’s status as a practicing lawyer disqualifies her from the minimum wage and overtime rules under FLSA,” agreed Judge Geck.
The judge added that although Ms. Schwinghammer failed to allege the county ever paid her less than $37.65 which was her agreed upon rate of pay.