Workers Claim City Agency Just Doesn’t Care

     RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – A group of welfare caseworkers say they are overworked, underpaid and thoroughly disgusted with what they describe as the city’s dismissive attitude toward children at risk of domestic violence, a lawsuit filed in Federal Court claims.
     The ten caseworkers claim in a lawsuit filed June 2 that they work on as many as 130 active cases a month – nearly 13 times more than recommended by the Child Welfare League of America.
     Though incumbent caseloads deprived them of necessary job training, lunch breaks and weekends, caseworkers allege they were denied overtime pay and told “they need to do whatever it takes to get their jobs done.”
     The plaintiff caseworkers, formerly known as “social workers” and “social work specialists” say their job titles changed in 2013 after Virginia’s general assembly unilaterally changed their designation in a new law requiring anyone employed as a social worker to hold a degree in social work.
     Although their job titles changed, caseworkers claim their responsibilities remained the same.
     According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a “learned professional” may be exempt from overtime earnings if they possess an advanced knowledge and specialized degree in a field of science or learning, whose job responsibilities which are “predominantly intellectual in character and which includes work requiring the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment.”
     While the DSS does not require caseworkers to have a specialized social work degree, caseworkers say the city “misclassified” them as social workers in order to avoid paying overtime wages.
     The plaintiffs also take the city to task for a 2008 policy they say greatly reduced or limited the number of children placed in foster home by the municipality.
     “In order to accomplish this goal, they made it practically impossible for children to be removed from their parents,” the plaintiffs say. As a result, “[c]aseworkers were … limited in their ability to remove children from dangerous homes for placement into protective custody.”
     The plaintiffs claim DSS managers altered case findings, instructed caseworkers not to prepare protective orders or emergency reports, and forbid them from removing children from … danger.
     “As a matter of course, children were left to remain in dangerous or otherwise unsuitable placements based on upper management decisions to delay, disregard, or reject homes and/or placements,” the complaint says.
     The caseworkers are represented by Craig Juraj Curwood and Philip Justus Dean of Curwood Law Firm in Richmond.
     Representatives for the city agency declined to comment, citing the pending nature of the litigation.

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