Friday, July 11, 2014

Ex-county dog handler sues for animal costs

February 16. 2013 5:24PM

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WILKES-BARRE ‚?? A former canine handler laid off from the Luzerne County Correctional Facility in March is suing for overtime pay he contends is owed for caring for the dog while he was not on duty, according to lawsuit filed Friday in federal court.

Joseph Petrovich of Butler Township said he is due $71,059 in compensation, $17,764 in damages plus interest, attorney‚??s fees and other costs.

Petrovich, who was among the more than 50 people whose jobs were cut as a cost-saving measure, said the county‚??s policy of refusing to pay overtime violated federal and state labor laws and demanded a jury trial, according to the suit filed against the county in U.S. District Court, Scranton.

A call placed to county solicitor Vito DeLuca was not returned.

The money is owed from a four-year period when Petrovich was employed as a lieutenant at the prison and the month he took care of the German shepherd Rocky after he was let go on March 1, according to the suit filed in U.S. District Court, Scranton.

Petrovich said he bought the dog on April 23 after the county refused to take it back.

The dog went through rehabilitation and intensive training to recover from a hearing loss in 2008 after his former handler fired a high-powered rifle too close to the animal, according to Times Leader archives. Rocky and other dogs in the unit were trained in drug detection and used to quell disturbances.

The suit listed Petrovich‚??s annual salary and overtime: Feb. 11, 2008 to June 9, 2011 he was paid $53,281 a year or $25.62 an hour and $38.43 overtime rate equal to one and a half times the regular hourly rate; June 9 2011 to Jan. 1 of this year his salary was $55,637, hourly rate $26.75 and overtime $40.12; Jan. 1 through March 1 his salary was $57,307, hourly rate $27.55 and overtime $41.33.

Petrovich said he spent at least seven hours a week caring for the dog in addition to his 40-hour work week. He also was not compensated for the animal‚??s care during his annual leave, according to the suit.

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