Chesterton Tribune



Kozuszek files federal complaint for overtime for election work

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Democrat Director of Porter County Voter Registration Kathy Kozuszek filed a complaint Tuesday with the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Indiana alleging that Porter County has violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by not compensating her for overtime, according to a court document.

The defendants named in the complaint are Porter County, Porter County Election Board, Porter County Clerk Karen Martin (individually, and in her capacity as the Clerk and a member of the Election Board), and David Bengs (individually and in his capacity as a member of the Election Board).


Kozuszek and her Republican counterpart Sundae Schoon have historically been paid overtime, but on Oct. 1, 2016, they were reclassified from non-exempt employees, who are compensated for overtime in excess of 40 hours per week, to exempt employees, who are not compensated for overtime. The Porter County Council approved one-time raises for Kozuszek and Schoon as a compromise.

Kozuszek made a request to receive overtime pay for hours worked during the 2016 general election through her lawyer, Ivan Bodensteiner, on Feb. 12 of this year.

At a March 8 Election Board meeting, the Board voted 2-1, with Democratic member J.J. Stankiewicz dissenting, to transfer election duties to Martin. Part of Stankiewicz’s dissent was the accusation that the move was blatant retaliation for Kozuszek’s request for overtime pay. Stankiewicz also objected to Martin running the election while she was on the ballot running for County Auditor.

Bengs, at the time, said the move brought Porter County election procedures into compliance with state law, as Porter County was at that time the only County where the Voter Registration office ran elections.

The Complaint

Through her lawyer, Kozuszek’s Nov. 27 complaint alleges that her reclassification was a violation of the FLSA because it was a cost saving measure for the County that came with no change in her duties, which have included for nearly 18 years running the elections in Porter County.

The complaint also alleges that the Porter County Election Board’s decision to transfer election duties to the Clerk was retaliation in response to her request for overtime pay.

The complaint says, “As a result of the retaliatory transfer to the Porter County Clerk, the November 2018 election in Porter County was a well-publicized embarrassment, with several Porter county officials attributing the mismanagement of the election to the defendant Martin and her lack of experience in conducting an election.”

The complaint continues, “In an effort to mitigate the failures of the Porter County Clerk, Kozuszek worked several hours of overtime, and the election results were finally announced around mid-day on November, 9, 2018, several days after the election on November 6, 2018.”

“As a result of the willful, continuing illegal actions of the defendants, Kozuszek has been deprived of compensation to which she is entitled and has suffered mental and emotional distress, as well as physical health problems,” according to the complaint.

Kozuszek seeks relief including: “a declaratory judgment determining that the challenged actions of the defendants violated federal and state law;” “equitable relief requiring the defendants to compensate the plaintiff for the overtime she worked, including statutory penalties, and future overtime;” “compensatory damages and liquidated damages and punitive damages from the individual defendants, in an amount to be determined by the jury;” and costs/attorney fees, according to the complaint.



Posted 11/30/2018




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