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Cabell County deputies sue for dog-care wages

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A federal lawsuit pits three canine handlers against Cabell County Sheriff Tom McComas, his sheriff’s office and the Cabell County Commission in a battle over unpaid overtime.

The plaintiffs – Sgt. Doug Adams, Cpl. Dennis Ray and Deputy Wayne Jarrell – represent three of the department’s four certified handlers. Their civil complaint seeks an unspecified amount in unpaid overtime, all accumulated off duty in kenneling and caring for the dogs.

They contend failing to pay the disputed overtime violates the federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

Attorneys for McComas and the other defendants disagree.

Their response, filed in late July, argues the lawsuit should be dismissed. It denies most every allegation and insists McComas relied upon policies and procedures developed by Adams, the canine unit’s ranking deputy and secretary/treasurer of the state’s Police Canine Association.

The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers. Both sides are ordered to file their first motions by early next week.

The plaintiffs are represented by Hughes & Goldner – the same Charleston law firm that represented Adams’ wife in what became the first of two gender discrimination lawsuits to target McComas’ administration in federal court.

The county’s former liability insurance carrier paid out a total of $1.89 million to settle the two federal lawsuits. The sheriff’s office additionally faces a third gender discrimination lawsuit, also brought by Hughes & Goldner, pending in state court.

The plaintiffs target McComas arguing as their supervisor since Jan. 1, 2009, he “had extensive managerial responsibilities and substantial control of the terms and conditions” of their work. They sued the county commission as a co-employer. McComas declined to comment Thursday on the suit.

The plaintiffs claim each of the canines were kenneled at their individual houses, where the deputies provided food, water, grooming, bathing, exercise, transport and training as a working police dog.

Their lawsuit, filed June 22, argues each aspect was “necessary, integral and indispensable” to the deputies’ role as a working dog handler. They estimate those responsibilities added four and a half hours to their individual work weeks…

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