Former employee sues, alleges unjust firing

A former employee is alleging GW shortchanged and fired him without a valid reason in a lawsuit expected to be delivered to the University by Tuesday.

David Driscoll, a former special assistant in the Office of Teaching and Learning, is charging that the University failed to adequately compensate his extra hours of work and terminated his contract in February after he raised these concerns, according to court documents approved by the U.S. District Court.

The University reviewed hourly overtime pay policies for a handful of positions that fall under the Fair Labor Standards Act – a law that regulates employment practices including minimum wage and overtime qualifications – handing employees like Driscoll less compensation, according to the complaint.

Another employee joined the lawsuit late last week, Tara Tayyabkhan, a paralegal from the firm, said Friday. She was unable to provide additional details on the client by publication time.

“I received positive feedback from [Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning Stephen Ehrmann] and the faculty, administrators, and staff with whom I worked,” Driscoll said in an email. “To this day, no one has provided me specifics about why I was terminated.”

Driscoll claimed the University cited his lack of qualifications as the reason for his dismissal.

When asked about the complaint, University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said the University does not comment on litigation.

Michael Sweeney, an attorney from the law firm Getman and Sweeney said the firm is reaching out to other University employees who might have also been shafted in the reclassification, similar to his client. The federal labor law requires employers to pay back overtime for up to two years.

GW calculated Driscoll worked a total of 24 hours overtime throughout his two years of employment, a number Driscoll said he far surpassed and occasionally reached in just a week.

“It is our understanding that the University used estimates that they generated,” Sweeney said. “The estimates were so low they were just unrealistic.”

If a judge decides there is enough information to classify the positions listed in the complaint – executive aides, executive assistants, executive coordinators and executive support assistants – as a collective class, Sweeney said the University will be required to provide the names and contact information for all members of the group.

Employees who could fall under the lawsuit’s umbrella would be notified that they could opt into the case to potentially gain more overtime compensation.

“What happens often is, workers have fear that if they join the case, they will suffer retaliation from their employer,” Sweeney said. He said typically, individuals join the suit after a court order notice goes out because they consider court involvement a sign of protection.

“We have to prove that the firing was because David raised claims,” Sweeney said. “They could have fired for valid reasons if they had them, but we think the circumstances will show that they didn’t have valid reasons.”

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