Paterson Top Stories

Budget Director Files Lawsuit Saying City Owes Him Overtime

The federal courthouse in Newark


PATERSON, NJ – The municipal budget director has filed a lawsuit against the city saying it has violated federal and state labor laws by not paying him more than $25,000 worth of overtime he says he accumulated since September 2011.

The director, Russell Forenza, said in the lawsuit filed in federal court in Newark last month that he had been receiving overtime for 20 years. The lawsuit says Forenza normally worked 45 hours per week over that time. He would get overtime whenever he worked more than 35 hours under an arrangement that paid him at his regular rate of $58.05 per hour for 36 to 40 hours in a week and a time-and-a-half rate for any hours more than 40, the lawsuit said.

Sign Up for E-News

But those payments stopped after Sept. 19, 2011, the lawsuit said. That was when controversy erupted because of the city’s overtime checks issued to the mayor and other high-ranking officials in the aftermath of the post-Hurricane Irene floods. In December 2011, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs told the city that Forenza, as budget director, should be considered a salaried employee who is not entitled to overtime.

Forenza’s attorney, Susan Champion, did not return a phone message seeking her comment on the case. Champion previously had worked as Paterson’s Corporation Counsel when Jose “Joey” Torres was mayor.

Forenza declined to comment on the case, referring questions to Champion. In the past, Forenza  has asserted that he qualified for overtime because he does not meet the criteria for “exempt” or management employees. He has based that argument on the assertion that he does not have the authority to hire or fire employees and that he supervises just one person.

Mayor Jeffery Jones said Forenza had “every right to file” the lawsuit against the city. “I don’t begrudge anyone from seeing what they’re entitled to,’’ said the mayor.

Jones said the city over the past year has been in frequent communication with the state over the question of which employees are entitled to overtime. “I need clarity,’’ Jones said.

In his complaint, Forenza says the city has not paid him for any of the 375.75 hours of overtime he says he worked between Sept. 19, 2011 and the date when he filed the suit last month. He puts the total amount at $25,752.43.

The lawsuit says the city is violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and New Jersey’s Wage and Hour Law and Wage Payment Law. The lawsuit contends that Forenza should have been paid overtime as a “non-exempt” employee.

But Councilman Kenneth Morris, chairman of the finance committee, said his understanding of federal labor law was that Forenza should be treated as a non-exempt employee who does not get overtime. “If Russ Forenza is not happy with the amount of worked required of him, he’s always free to see employment elsewhere,’’ Morris said.


TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Paterson Students Speak Out Against Gun Violence

March 16, 2018

Dear Editor:

I want to give a special thanks to Paterson Public Schools Superintendent Eileen Shafer for giving endless support to our students during the student's protest to walk out their school against gun violence yesterday. Our schools participated and their voices were heard. The goal was to spend 17 minutes to honor each victim of the Parkland, Florida, tragic mass ...

Recently Passed County Budget Built on 'Fiscally Sound Policies'

March 15, 2018

PATERSON, NJ – Saying it reflects “fiscally sound policies, strong budgetary flexibility, proactive increases to manage volatile expense line items, including significant reserves for workers’ compensation, health benefits, and liability insurance, and an overall net debt of 1% of market value,” the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders adopted the 2018 budget on ...

Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly Honors Women in Law Enforcement

March 22, 2018

PATERSON, NJ- Paterson Police Officers Jevonn McRae and Angelica Rodriguez were among 13 women in law enforcement honored by Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-35) at his sixth annual Public Safety Awards Dinner on Tuesday. Bergen County Sheriff’s Officer Latressa Greene, who was a member of the Paterson Police Department until budget cuts caused more than 100 police officers to be laid off, ...

Paterson Music Project Student Accepted Into Los Angeles Philharmonic National Take A Stand Festival

March 21, 2018

PATERSON, NJ—Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts’ Paterson Music Project (PMP) announced today that PMP student Hector Ottero has been accepted into the National Take a Stand Festival Junior String Ensemble, an opportunity specifically for younger musicians and open to only 36 string players aged 12-15 from across the country. All students will have the opportunity to learn from ...