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.
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.
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
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
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
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.