Officers sue over wages

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Fox opted out the same day he was named administrator

WILDWOOD- Officers in the city’s police department have filed a collective action lawsuit against Wildwood accusing the city of failing to pay regular and overtime wages.

According to the suit, the main complaint is that officers were required to show up 15 minutes before the start of their shift, ready to work, but were not compensated for this time. Officers who failed to do so were also disciplined for being late, the suit states.

Elias Aboud, Richard Adair, Christopher Fox, Kenneth Phillips and Paul Zielinski are listed as plaintiffs in the suit. However, their lawyer, Michelle Douglass of Northfield, said that Fox opted out of the suit Monday.

That’s most likely because he was appointed to be the city’s interim administrator on Monday as well.

Douglass explained that because the suit is a collective action suit, other members of the department could still opt in to the claim. She compared it to a class action suit, however, in a class action suit, all eligible members are automatically included in the suit, and then have the opportunity to opt out.

The suit was first filed in U.S. District Court for New Jersey in November. However, Douglass said it has taken six months for the court to approve the suit’s collective action status.

According to the claim, all officers who have worked for the department in the last three years are eligible to opt in. The claim states that members of the force were required to show up ready for work 15 minutes prior to the start of their shifts. However, they were never compensated for this time.

It also states that officers were often required to stay after their shifts had ended, especially in the case of emergencies, but weren’t paid over-time. It states that the only overtime that was paid out had to be “pre-approved.”

One officer, Zielinski, was disciplined and eventually fired from his job at the force because he would show up for work before the start of his shift, but not a full 15 minutes prior to it beginning.

Phillips is also involved in another lawsuit against the city regarding its police department. A group of retired officers filed a claim earlier this year against the department in regards to a trust fund that was to be used to help retired officers pay for prescription costs.

According to that lawsuit, the officers listed were denied assistance from the trust fund, even though they had allegedly paid thousands into it.

The officers are asking for the requirement of showing up early to be stopped, and to be compensated for the time they worked. They are also asking for liquidated damages, which is compensation decided by a court judgment or a specific contract when there is a breach of contract.

Zielinski is seeking to be reinstated to his position in the department, disciplinary action to be removed from his file, and damages.

Commissioner Tony Leonetti, who oversees the department of public safety in the city, said that the practice in question was implemented before he took office. He said that because there had been complaints about officers arriving to work and needing to take additional time to get ready after their shift had started, the practice was started.

Other than that, he declined to comment on the issue.

Police Chief Steven Long did not immediately return phone calls for comment.

Christie Rotondo can be emailed at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or you can comment on this story below. 

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