On April 28, 2020, the Hernando County Board of County Commissioners held an Executive Session to discuss settlement details and litigation strategy in a case brought against the county by former employee Thomas Charlow. The Executive Session was not held in the sunshine as is common for discussions relating to ongoing litigation.
Thomas Charlow had been an employee in the public works department since 2013. His wife Cristi Charlow served as the Human Resources director beginning in 2015 until her resignation in December of 2019.
Thomas Charlow’s employment ended on Feb. 8, 2019, when he was "constructively discharged" by the county, according to the complaint filed against the county.
The petitioner’s complaint says that Hernando County knowingly withheld overtime wages from Charlow. On July 31, 2018 County Administrator Jeffrey Rogers, requested Charlow provide an estimate of his overtime hours beginning Aug. 10, 2015 through the present. This was follow up to an October 2017 investigation on DPW unpaid overtime wages conducted by the Human Resources Department.
Rogers explained in an email to Thomas Charlow, “As you may recall, in October 2017, you participated in an investigation conducted by Human Resources regarding your department's use of overtime. One reason why you were interviewed was to provide Hernando County a better understanding of the time worked in your department and to ensure that Hernando County was paying its employees appropriately. In your responses to the questions asked by the HR/Risk Director and upon further review, I was left with the impression that you may have worked more than 40 hours during your regularly scheduled work week during your employment at Hernando County. I'd like to obtain as accurate an accounting for those excess hours worked as is currently possible. To that end, please provide me your most accurate estimate of the total number of hours you worked in excess of your regularly scheduled 40 hour work week beginning August 10, 2015 through the present.”
The email correspondence was cc'd to Thomas Charlow’s wife Cristi Charlow, the acting Human Resources Director.
The county ultimately paid Charlow his unpaid overtime compensation which amounted to $41,925.34. While Rogers acknowledged that Charlow was also due an equivalent amount in liquidated damages via email, the county never paid those damages to him. The unpaid liquidated damages is Charlow’s primary reason for suing the county.
Thomas Charlow was one of several DPW employees who received overtime compensation following the human resources investigation, but Thomas Charlow received the highest figure.
This article was edited on May 18, 2020 to clarify that Thomas Charlow was contstructively discharged by the county according to the complaint filed on Jan. 24, 2020.