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At A Glance
This Alert Affects:
Current and former police officers who weren't paid overtime.
What's Going On?
A number of police officers are suing their departments claiming they're being denied overtime pay in violation of federal law.
A number of class action lawsuits have been filed against police departments for allegedly failing to compensate their police officers properly for their overtime hours.
For instance, police officers in Hampton, Virginia sued their department and were awarded $3.5 million in damages. Attorneys believe that the practice of police departments denying overtime is widespread and are interested in talking to current and former police officers to help determine whether other lawsuits can be filed.
Do Police Officers Get Overtime Pay?
The fact is most employees are entitled to overtime pay under a federal law known as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The exceptions to this rule are very narrow and often apply to professions such as teaching, science, medicine, the arts and to highly compensated and/or managerial positions. There is an exception that applies to police officers – but it doesn’t restrict them from earning overtime, just how they earn it.
What Does the FLSA Say About Police Officers and Overtime?
Most people receive overtime pay when working more than 40 hours a week. Because police officers are generally required to work 12- or 24-hours shifts several days a week, overtime pay is due at a different threshold.
Whereas most people earn overtime after working 40 hours, police officers may not earn overtime until after having worked 171 hours – and this number all depends on how the department defines its officers’ “work periods.”
If your work period is 28 days, you must work 171 hours before receiving overtime pay.
If your work period is 14 days, you must work 86 hours before receiving overtime pay.
If your work period is 7 days, you must work 43 hours before receiving overtime pay.
Ways Your Employer May Be Getting Around Overtime Law
Lawsuits claim that even in cases where police departments are paying overtime, they’re finding other ways to cheat police officers out of proper pay.
Employees – including law enforcement professionals – must be paid for all hours worked. When an employer fails to properly record an employee’s total number of hours worked, the worker may also be getting cheated out of proper overtime pay.
Lawsuits have alleged that police officers aren’t getting paid for certain mandatory, on-the-job tasks and that their total number of hours worked is less than it actually should be – resulting in them not getting as much overtime pay as they’re owed.
For the purposes of calculating overtime, the following tasks should be paid and counted toward an officer’s hours worked:
Filling out paperwork
Attending shift-change lineups
Maintaining take-home vehicles
Maintaining animals with the K-9 unit
Attending volunteer assignments
The suits also claim that officers aren’t being paid for “on-call” work in which they are required to answer calls while off duty and report to crime scenes if needed.
Forcing Compensatory Time
According to the law, police departments are permitted to offer compensatory time instead of overtime wages. There must, however, be an express agreement between the department and the officer to offer comp time in lieu of wages. Allegations have surfaced that some police departments are requiring police officers to accept comp time instead of overtime even though such an agreement was never made – and officers who disagree with this arrangement are being forced to accept the comp time as their overtime payment.