Janitors Sue Union, Columbia University for Nepotism in Overtime Assignments

Columbia University.

Image Source: Alejandro Mallea

Seven custodial workers employed by Columbia University sued both the school and their union claiming they were denied overtime assignments given to friends and family members of the union’s officials.  All workers were employed as heavy cleaners, with experience levels ranging from five to over twenty years.

The collective bargaining agreement or CBA in effect at the relevant time period requires that any overtime assignments be distributed equally among the workers, on a rotating basis and that the list of such assignments be in writing and posted where they can be seen by all affected.

The workers claim that in 2016 one of them had only been been assigned 90 hours of overtime, netting him $2,454, while a relative of a union official was assigned about 2,000 overtime hours and was paid up to $130,000 for that work.  They also assert that the overtime assignments were never posted, as required by the CBA. Their union is Local No. 241.

When they presented the union with their grievance, they were told that it should be directed at Columbia; when presented to the university, they were told that it should be brought before the union, according to the complaint.

The workers seek relief directing the union and Columbia to distribute overtime assignments equally, as well as economic relief in the form of back overtime wages denied by the alleged misconduct, compensatory and punitive damages.

The case was filed in the Southern District of New York by Lichten Bright of New York.

Columbia and the Local 241 did not return messages requesting comment.