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Six employees at the Davis County Mental Health Center have filed a lawsuit against the center in federal court demanding payment for the nights they are required to sleep at the treatment facility.

The employees claim the center violates the Federal Labor Standards Act by requiring them to sleep at the center several nights a week without paying them.One shift at the center requires employees to work from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. - 15 hours, said David Bert Havas, attorney for the employees.

"Under the law, that is considered equivalent to working," he said.

However, the center tells employees that five of those hours are sleep hours and requires employees to list those hours as off-duty hours, Havas said.

The suit alleges the employees should be paid for the nights spent at the center because the sleeping arrangements there are "substantially less desirable" than sleep arrangements employees have at home, and their sleep is subject to "serious interruptions."

"Employees are seldom able to sleep more than two hours a night because of interruptions," Havas said.

Davis County Deputy Attorney Gerald Hess said the center invites employees to identify sleep interruptions on a written form and offers to pay them for those interruptions.

"It is my understanding that the papers these employees signed indicated they had been receiving their sleep," Hess said.

The employees did not discuss the sleep problem with the center or county before filing a suit, he said.

"The suit was filed without any endeavor to resolve the problem," Hess said.

The suit was filed by Robbin Muir of Clinton, Charlotte Sherwood of Layton, Joyce Hemenway of Clearfield, Douglas Weaver of Kaysville, Craig Sherwood of Clearfield and Kathleen Bitton of Clearfield.

The six employees filed the suit on behalf of all Davis County Mental Health employees required to sleep at the center without pay.

The employees seek approximately $100,000 in back wages for nights spent at the center over the past several years.

Many employees at the center work four shifts a week totaling 60 hours, including the "sleep time," Havas said. But they are only paid for 40 hours a week.

The suit also seeks $100,000 in "liquidated damages."

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, courts can award damages equal to the amount of lost wages, Havas said.

Havas also seeks court costs from the county.