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Ely teachers settle payroll deduction lawsuit with school district

Keith Vandervort
Posted 1/14/20

ELY – School officials and teachers here reached a tentative settlement of a lawsuit brought by 17 Ely teachers against the Ely School District in late 2018. School board members went into …

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Ely teachers settle payroll deduction lawsuit with school district

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ELY – School officials and teachers here reached a tentative settlement of a lawsuit brought by 17 Ely teachers against the Ely School District in late 2018. School board members went into closed session following their regular business meeting Monday night to consider and ultimately agree to the terms of the deal.
“The board approved the settlement agreement, however, it has not been executed,” ISD 696 legal counsel Kelly Klun said on Tuesday.  “The terms of this agreement will be made public upon filing with the court and dismissal of the cases,” she added in an email to the Timberjay.
The case stems from alleged unauthorized payroll deductions made by the district. The district originally mistakenly overpaid the teachers during the 2017-18 school year, then reclaimed the money over several consecutive pay periods, according to court records.
A lawsuit originally filed by teacher Krista Moyer claimed those deductions were unauthorized and in violation of the law. Other teachers affected by the deduction later signed on to the suit.
As previously reported by the Timberjay in December 2018, the other 16 teachers, who filed their own separate claims, included Paula Anderson, Kelly Chick, Tiffany Davis, Kaley Hotaling, Mariah Jeske, Tara Johnson, Jennifer Kerntz, Risto Kultula, Cory Lassi, Jason Limp, John Meyer, Kelly Noble, Molly Olson, Michael Rouse, Amanda Vanderbeek and Megan Wognum.
Moyer said in court documents that she was overpaid $1,088.10 over 13 paychecks between August 2017 and May 2018. To recoup the claimed overpayment, Moyer said the school district, through a payroll adjustment, deducted $155.44 from seven paychecks. She sought twice the amount of the deduction, allowable under state statute, in the amount of $2,176.20, plus filing fees and costs, for a total of $2,251.20.
The teachers, represented by an attorney from Education Minnesota, the state teachers’ union, claimed the district erred by taking money from their paychecks.
Moyer claimed she did not provide written authorization for the deduction, citing state law that forbids employers from making any deduction to recover claimed indebtedness unless the employee voluntarily authorizes the employer in writing to make this deduction. State law says employers who violate the provisions “shall be liable in a civil action for twice the amount of the deduction or credit taken.”
ISD 696 officials said that all teachers were fully compensated as required in their contract, and the case pertains to payroll calculation mistakes that arose after the school district and Ely teachers settled a new two-year contract. The mistake was discovered several months later.
On behalf of the school district, Klun filed a counterclaim, saying that in Moyer’s case, the overpayment was actually $1,674 and that Moyer owed them that money, plus fees and costs of $1,080, for a total of $2,754.
“Both parties are in agreement with the proposed resolution and look forward to its finalization,” Klun said.
Board chair Ray Marsnik referred all questions in the matter to Klun.

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