PLAISTOW — New Hampshire’s highest-paid public school superintendent has sued to be paid for the compensatory time he lost when the school board adopted a new policy last summer eliminating comp time for administrators.
In the suit, Earl Metzler, superintendent for the Timberlane Regional and Hampstead school districts, accuses SAU 55 of not fully paying compensatory time at the rate that was provided for in a school policy before the school board voted to no longer allow Metzler and other salaried employees to earn comp time.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory time at a time-and-a-half rate along with “liquidated damages” and attorney’s fees.
While the lawsuit doesn’t specify a dollar amount, school officials have estimated that Metzler would likely be seeking at least an additional $50,000 on top of the more than $100,000 that he has received in payouts for compensatory time since 2015. Metzler earns $175,882 a year.
The lawsuit filed last month in Rockingham County Superior Court follows a policy change made in June by the SAU Board, which is composed of school board members from the Timberlane Regional School District and the Hampstead School District.
According to Metzler, the practice of allowing salaried employees, including the superintendent and other administrators, to earn and accrue compensatory time for working on non-work days, like holidays and weekends, existed for many years. They also received payment for unused compensatory time, the suit said.
“This benefit was in place long before I started here. My time is about one day a month over seven-plus years. I can assure you I work many more days than one extra a month. That seemed fair given the benefit the boards provide,” Metzler said in a statement provided to the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Metzler, who has been superintendent since 2012, described his case as a “simple underpaid wage complaint” and said other employees are also asking to be paid properly.
After the policy change last June, Metzler requested payment of his accrued time.
“At that point, it was determined that payments of Dr. Metzler’s compensatory time had been paid at a rate of straight time, not at one-and-one-half hours (time-and-a-half),” said the suit, which was filed through Metzler’s attorney, C. Kevin Leonard.
Metzler argues that he’s entitled to be paid the full amount of his accrued compensatory time at a time-and-a-half rate under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.
“I asked several times for an explanation as to why they would not honor the correct payment. After being refused an answer I had no other choice but to file to get a reason. I would expect several more claims will be filed soon,” he said.
Kimberly Farah, chairman of the SAU Board, declined comment on the case, saying only that the board will be filing a response in court.
Shawn O’Neil, who serves as chairman of the Timberlane Regional School Board and also sits on the SAU board, said the “board disagrees with the premise of the case and we will defend the district.”
“We’re all in,” he said.