Bus company employees file suit for overtime

Employees of First Student Inc., a national bus company that transports hundreds of students in Baltimore, filed a lawsuit in city Circuit Court yesterday in an attempt to collect back pay, overtime and bonuses they say their employer owes them.

The filing of the class action lawsuit, which represents nearly 300 current and former First Student bus drivers and attendants, was announced by local and national officials of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. First Student employees who transport city school children voted June 1 to join the union. The majority of children who ride school buses in Baltimore are disabled.

"There have been many weeks when I have worked over 40 hours and I have not been paid overtime," said Melanie Willner, a First Student employee since 1997 and one of 12 plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Driver Rose Marie Sandlin, also a plaintiff, said First Student managers divide employee hours worked into different categories of activity so it is more difficult for drivers and attendants to claim overtime. Sandlin called the practice unfair.

Attorney Deborah Thompson Eisenberg, who is representing the employees on behalf of the Teamsters, accused First Student of breaking state and federal wage and labor laws. She said that in some cases, the company has underestimated how long it takes drivers to cover a bus route and the drivers are not getting paid for the time they actually spend on the job.

Tony Bennett, a First Student manager who works in Baltimore, did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

The lawsuit also covers First Student employees who drove buses in Baltimore County. First Student had a contract with the county until recently when school system officials dropped the company because of "quality concerns," according to a Teamsters spokeswoman.

Lynn Anderson

Baltimore County: Roads

Part of I-695 to close tonight for roadwork

The inner loop of Interstate 695 near the Peninsula Expressway exit in southeastern Baltimore County is scheduled to be closed tonight and part of tomorrow, authorities said.

The lanes are to be closed from 7 p.m. to noon for roadway maintenance. A posted detour route will guide drivers from the Beltway and back onto the highway.

Baltimore: Education

Notre Dame plans information session

An information session on the College of Notre Dame's Accelerated College and Weekend College programs is set for 9 a.m. tomorrow. The session will include details of the college's new programs in information and communication management, psychology and elementary education. The session will be on the college's campus, 4701 N. Charles St. For more information or to reserve a spot in the session, call 410-532-5500 or go to

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