Employment & Labor Law for Public Safety Agencies

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Training Rights, Requirements and Cost Reimbursement

     Monthly Law Journal Article: "Training Reimbursement Contract," 2007 (3) AELE Mo. L. J. 201. [March 2007].
     Monthly Law Journal Article: Legal Aspects of Training Injuries -- Part One, 2007 (8) AELE Mo. L. J. 201.
     Monthly Law Journal Article: Legal Aspects of Training Injuries -- Part Two, 2007 (9) AELE Mo. L. J. 201.
     Monthly Law Journal Article: Regulation of an Employee's Off-Duty Activities Part Three- Participating in Unapproved Training Programs and/or Membership in Controversial Organizations or Events, 2008 (2) AELE Mo. L. J. 201.

     A female African-American police detective who had a heart condition was placed on administrative leave after she and her doctor raised concerns about her being required to be subjected to a Taser shock during training exercises. Ultimately, she was terminated.  A federal appeals court reversed summary judgment for the defendants in a lawsuit claiming that the plaintiff was unlawfully discharged from the police department based on disability and/or racial or gender discrimination.  A jury could find that the stated reason for terminating her—that she was absent without leave—was a pretext for one or more other motives. The trial court correctly concluded that the detective did not produce sufficient evidence to permit a conclusion that she was actually disabled, within the meaning of the American with Disabilities Act.  But she did produce evidence sufficient to raise a genuine issue of fact on whether she was “regarded as” disabled and that her employer regarded her heart condition as a physical impairment and took adverse action—placing her on leave—because of the impairment; A jury would be justified in concluding that receiving a Taser shock was not an essential function of the detective's job, in which case it would follow that she was a "qualified individual." Lewis v. Union City, Georgia, #15-11362, 877 F.3d 1000 (11th Cir. 2017).

     In the absence of any evidence that would allow apportionment of police academy costs between basic training for state certification and employer-mandated training, a city could not legally enforce a contract requiring recruits to reimburse the city for a portion of their training if they left within five years and went to work for another law enforcement agency within one year after leaving. In re Acknowledgment Cases, #E058460, 239 Cal. App. 4th 1498, 2015 Cal. App. Lexis 770.
    An employee of a county sheriff's department was working as a civil deputy process server, but was entitled to carry a weapon and had arrest powers. He was asked to undergo Taser training, and, as part of that training, to receive a single one-to-five-second exposure to a Taser shock. He sought to avoid this part of the training because of a medical condition involving his back, for which he had previously undergone surgery. He was offered the alternative of either termination or transfer to another position monitoring prisoners on a computer screen at the county jail. He declined the transfer, and was fired. He claimed that his termination was disability discrimination in failing to reasonably accommodate his medical condition by allowing him to avoid the Taser shock exposure training exercise. The court ruled that undergoing the Taser training involved an essential job function of the plaintiff's position. Even if he were held to have a disability, the offer to transfer him to another job constituted a reasonable accommodation. The court also rejected the plaintiff's due process claims concerning his termination.  Robert v. Carter, #1:09-cv-0425, 2011 U.S. Dist. Lexis 47975 (S.D. Ind.).
     Ninth Circuit enforces a training contract requiring a police officer repay 80% of her $8,000 training cost. She resigned before completing her fifth year of service. Although the FLSA applied, she was paid substantially more than the minimum wage. Gordon v. City of Oakland, #09-16167, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 23803 (9th Cir.).
     Police Dept. was not required to pay the salary of a police officer who was required to repeat basic training after a five-year absence, while serving as a state representative. Santiago v. Methuen Police Dept., #09-P-1228, 77 Mass. App. Ct. 1116, 2010 Mass. App. Unpub. Lexis 948.
     Louisiana appellate court upholds the termination of a firefighter who failed to complete EMT training during a required six-month period. Meiners v. St. Tammany Fire Prot. Dist. # 4, 2009 CW 0435R, 2010 La. App. Lexis 1223 (1st. Dist.).
     Federal court upholds a management rule that "no personnel will attend any police related schools whether it be on your time and expense or the Borough's time and expense unless authorized by the Chief of Police." For reasons of liability, management has a legitimate interest in knowing what training officers are getting. Johnson v. Borough of Palmyra, #1:04cv5370, 2007 U.S. Dist. Lexis 56628 (D.N.J.).
     Federal agencies will be required to collect detailed information on current training programs and needs and to electronically report the data to the Office of Personnel Management. Among the specific proposed information requirements are the names of workers receiving training, the duration of the training, where they are receiving the training, the cost of the training, the number of hours of training for each worker. Training: OPM Reporting Requirements, 5 CFR Part 410; RIN 3206-AK46; 71 Fed. Reg. 28,545 (5/17/06). {N/R}
     Dept. of Labor issues a precedent-setting opinion that public employers may not deduct from final paychecks, amounts due under training cost reimbursement clauses, except to the extent the compensation exceeds the federal minimum wage, including overtime. Wage & Hour Opin. Ltr. #FLSA 2005-18, 2005 DOLWH Lexis 20 (May 31, 2005). [2005 FP Oct]
     Seventh Circuit upholds a collective bargaining provision requiring a firefighter to repay the full cost of his books and tuition for EMT training, even though he switched employers during the 30th month of the 36-month contractual obligation. However, the city must pay the plaintiff the minimum wage for the final pay period, but could deduct the excess compensation, and could sue the firefighter for the remainder in a breach of contract action. Heder v. City of Two Rivers, Wis., 295 F.3d 777 (7th Cir. 2002). {N/R}
     Arbitrator denies a sergeant’s grievance that he was forced to work overtime on his day off, in violation of the bargaining agreement. Requiring him to attend a state mandated training program was not forced overtime. City of Granite City and Policemen’s Benev. Labor Cmtee., 117 LA (BNA) 222 (Wang, 2002). [2002 Oct. FP]
     N.Y. appellate court reaffirms a prior ruling, allowing a police academy to raise its academic standards after a class has started at the academy. Avila v. Safir, 686 N.Y.S.2d 30 (A.D. 1999). [1999 FP 142]
     N.Y. appellate court rejects appeal of a person who flunked the police academy. Department could raise the academic standards for recruit after he had started the academy. Guida v. NYC Dept. of Personnel, 672 N.Y.S.2d 1, 238 A.D.2d 170, 1997 N.Y.App.Div. Lexis 3213. [1999 FP 29-30]
     Firefighter is not entitled to reimbursement for participating in search and recovery training with his dog, where collective-bargaining contract provides for reimbursement for training related to fire fighting, most search and recovery missions are handled by law enforcement authorities, and department does not routinely handle such activities. West Licking Fire Dist. and W.L. F/Fs L-3025, 112 LA (BNA) 904 (Sugerman, 1999). {N/R}
     Federal court rejects suit from a corrections officer that sought to enjoin training which requires officers to be sprayed with pepper mace. Ryder v. Freeman, 918 F.Supp. 157, 1996 U.S. Dist. Lexis 3965 (W.D.N.C.). [1996 FP 109-110]
     Employees do not have a legally enforceable “property interest” in attending training programs, even if the chief violates departmental guidelines in selecting candidates for additional training. Dworak v. Vil. of Wilmette, 618 N.E.2d 974 (Ill.App. 1993). [1994 FP 45-6]


     In the absence of any evidence that would allow apportionment of police academy costs between basic training for state certification and employer-mandated training, a city could not legally enforce a contract requiring recruits to reimburse the city for a portion of their training if they left within five years and went to work for another law enforcement agency within one year after leaving. In re Acknowledgment Cases, #E058460, 239 Cal. App. 4th 1498, 2015 Cal. App. Lexis 770.
     City of Los Angeles is suing 53 former police officers for $1.6 million, claiming that they broke their employment contracts by leaving within five years after graduating from the Police Academy and working elsewhere in law enforcement. Source: 44 (2151) G.E.R.R. (BNA) 370 (4/4/06); L.A. Times (3/23/06). {N/R}
     Missouri appellate court enforces a standard form reimbursement agreement. It was not an unlawful assignment of future wages or an unconscionable adhesion contract. Smith v. Kriska, #ED82062, 2003 Mo. App. Lexis 1335 (2003). [2003 FP Nov]
     Appellate court in New Jersey holds that the state’s Public Employment Relations Commission properly concluded that a public employer violated its duty to bargain by unilaterally adopting a requirement that police applicants repay their training costs in the event of severance within two years after completion of their academy training. The court rejected the employer’s argument that the provision was not term and condition of employment because it became effective only after employment ceased. New Jersey Transit Auth. v. N.J. Transit PBA L-304, #A-5710-96T5, 314 N.J. Super. 129, 714 A.2d 329, 1998 N.J. Super. Lexis 342, 158 LRRM (BNA) 3064 (1998), affirming #97-125, 23 NJPER (LRP) ¶28,137, 1997 NJPER (LRP) Lexis 61 (NJ-PERC, 1997). {N/R}
     Illinois court enforces a training cost reimbursement contract, including legal fees, but disallows full recovery of the officer’s wages earned while attending a program on dept. time. Wage reimbursement held to violate the FLSA, 29 C.F.R. 531.36. Montgomery (Vil. of) v. (John) Thompson, #SC-KA-97-3820 (Ill.Cir.Ct., Kane Co. 1998). See also, Strong v. Williams, 1980 U.S. Dist. Lexis 14185/at 5-f (M.D.Fla.). [1998 FP 141-2]
     Ohio appellate court panel upheld a judgment of $42,000 in liquidated damages against an employee who went to work for a competitor in less than 3 years following his separation, in violation of his employment contract. Amount was upheld because the costs of hiring and training an individual are not precise. Tremco Inc. v. Kent, 1997 Ohio App. Lexis 2367. [1998 FP 126]
     National brokerage firm pays $1.8 million to settle a class action brought by a stockbroker who quit before his two-year commitment ended and joined a competitor firm, costing him $28,545 in liquidated damages. Silk v. Dean Witter Reynolds, #87-03614-WDR (Unreported) (C.D.Cal. 1997). [1998 FP 126]
     Ohio appellate court upholds a training reimbursement clause in the case of a EMT who quit to work for another agency. Carlson Ambulance Transport v. Fischbach, 1998 Ohio App. Lexis 1556. [1998 FP 125-6]
     Appellate court enforces agreement that an officer reimburse the city of the cost of his training if he quits before completing 12 months of service. City of Pembroke v. Hagin, 391 S.E.2d 465 (Ga. App. 1990).
     Arbitrator rules that a city could not unilaterally impose requirement that new appointees reimburse city for training if they quit in three years. In re City of Mt. Vernon, 2 The Labor Lawyer (ABA) 599, 23 G.E.R.R. (BNA) 667.
     Training reimbursement contracts gain acceptance and reduce lateral movements by new employees. Young, “The Pre-employment Contract Two Years Later: Pay as You Go,” 22 (3) Journal of California Law Enforcement 66 (1988).
     Florida’s Public Employees Relations Commission holds that a city violated its bargaining obligation by unilaterally adopting a resolution requiring newly hired firefighters to sign an agreement requiring reimbursement of training costs if they resign to accept employment with another fire department or state agency within two years after successful completion of firefighter training. City’s general home-rule powers did not override state collective bargaining laws. Hallandale Prof. Fire Fighters Assn. L-2238 v. City of Hallandale, PERC #CA-88-080, Order #89U-161, 1989 FPER (LRP) Lexis 154, 15 FPER (LRP) ¶20,214 (Fla. PERC, 1989). {N/R}
     North Dakota enforces teacher training reimbursement contracts. Bowbells Public School Dist. v. Walker, 231 N.W.2d 173, 1975 N.D. Lexis 164 (N.D., 1975); Bottineau Public School Dist. v. Zimmer, 231 N.W.2d 178, 1975 N.D. Lexis 163 (N.D., 1975).

     See also: Contracts and Consultants.

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