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Employment & Labor Law for Public Safety Agencies


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F.L.S.A. - Overtime - Roll Call and Meal Periods

     Two investigators for a state Department of Child Services sued for alleged violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, claiming that they were required to work through lunch and remain on call after their shifts, while only being paid for 40 hours per week. A federal appeals court upheld the dismissal of the claims based on Eleventh Amendment immunity, finding that Indiana had not expressly waived sovereign immunity. A state, to lose such immunity to a suit in federal court must explicitly waive sovereign immunity. Nunez v. Ind. Dep't of Child Servs., #15-2800, 2016 U.S. App. Lexis 6209 (7th Cir.).
      A corrections officer at a county prison sought to bring a class action claiming that the county failed to pay her and other similarly situated officers for overtime in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). She claimed that a portion of officers' meal periods was compensable under the statute. A federal appeals court found that there was no provision of the statute that directly addressed this issue. Other federal appeals courts adopted one of two approaches--the first of which, adopted by two federal circuits, looked at whether or not employees had been relieved of all duties during mealtimes, and the other, more widely adopted, looked to the party which received the "predominant benefit" of the mealtime. The Third Circuit adopted the later test and upheld the trial court's determination that the officers received the predominant benefit of the meal periods and therefore the meal periods were not compensable. Babcock v. Butler County, #14-1467, 2015 U.S. App. Lexis 20393 (3rd Cir.).
    Because California's wage and hour statutes do not apply to public employees, an action seeking compensation for state correctional officers must fail. California Correctional Peace Officers' Assn. v. State of California, #A125679, 188 Cal.App.4th 646, 115 Cal.Rptr.3d 361, 2010 Cal.App. Lexis 1613.
     Illinois Federal court declines to dismiss an overtime action arising over meal breaks. "A reasonable jury could find that there were sufficient limitations on the break periods of the Plaintiffs in the Investigations or Operations Bureaus so that those periods were predominantly for the benefit of the employer." Wood v. City of Elgin, #07-Cv-05418, 2008 U.S. Dist. Lexis 80559 (N.D. Ill.).
     California appellate panel holds that "employers cannot coerce, require or compel employees to work off the clock, they can only be held liable for employees working off the clock if they knew or should have known they were doing so." Brinker v. Super. Ct., #D049331A, 2008 Cal. App. Lexis 1138 (4th Dist.).
     Arbitrator sustains overtime claims of New River Gorge NRA park rangers that were unable to take meal breaks while on river safety assignments. However, the agency was not required to pay overtime to rangers who were required to keep their radio or cell phone on during a meal break period. Natl. Park Service and AFGE L-2198, FMCS Case #060810/58715-A, 124 LA (BNA) 358 and 1005. (Pritzker, 2007/08).
     Arbitrator holds that management violated government rules, agency policy, and the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay park rangers for a half hour lunch break, where their duties prevented them from taking lunch break at all or without interruption. Natl. Park Serv. and AFGE L-2198, 124 LA (BNA) 358 (Pritzker, 2007).
     In the absence of any provision in the bargaining agreement concerning meal periods, it was undisputed that officers remained on duty during meal periods and regularly were called back to service. O'Brien v. Town of Agawam, #01-30126, 2007 U.S. Dist. Lexis 24313 (D. Mass.).
     Iowa Supreme Court holds that sergeants were exempt from the overtime provisions of the FLSA, but meal time for officers was compensable. Raper v. Iowa Dept. Public Safety, #86/03-0255, 688 N.W.2d 29, 2004 Iowa Sup. Lexis 277, 10 WH Cases2d (BNA) 76 (2004). {N/R}
     Federal court opts for the "benefit of the employer" test, rather than the "completely relieved of duty test" in finding that detective lunch periods were not compensable time. Harris v. City of Boston, #2002-10123, 2003 U.S. Dist. Lexis 4984, 8 WH Cases2d (BNA) 1009 (D.Mass. 2003). {N/R}
     Arizona appeals court rejects overtime claims by officers who remained on call, in uniform, during their meal periods. Hahn v. Pima County, 2 CA-CV 00-0200, 24 P.3d 614, 2001 Ariz. App. Lexis 95, 7 WH Cases 2d (BNA) 434. [2001 FP 152-3]
     Federal court in D.C. notes that meals periods for uniformed officers can be compensable time, but a dominant benefit test must be used to make a determination in each case. Kohlheim v. Glynn Co., Ga., 915 F.2d 1473, 29 WH Cases (BNA) 1673 (11th Cir. 1990). [2001 FP 54]
     38 police officers sued their city for nonpayment of mandatory 10 minute rollcall sessions. The district court found that attendance was compensated through the officers' salary and that the city had complied with the FLSA. A three-judge appellate panel concluded that because of the FLSA 7k provision, police officers are exempt from the 150% premium pay for these periods. A city established a partial overtime exemption under Sec. 7(k) of the FLSA when it required police officers to work for 12-hour shifts every eight days and where officers' eight-day workweek is a "regularly recurring" work period. The city intended to adopt a Sec. 7(k) work cycle. Adair v. City of Kirkland, #98-35019, 1999 U.S. App. Lexis 8274; second decision at 1999 U.S. App. Lexis 18328, 175 F.3d 707, 5 WH Cases2d (BNA) 883 (9th Cir.). {N/R}
     Albuquerque pays $416,500 to 833 officers that were not compensated for meal periods; settlement ends a $13 million lawsuit. Albuquerque P.O.A. v. City of Albq., Civ-91-0510, 34 (1668) G.E.R.R. (BNA) 793 (D.N.M. 1996). {N/R}
     Federal appeals court holds that correction officers were entitled to be paid overtime for roll-call and meal periods. L-889 AFSCME v. Louisiana, #96-30982, 145 F.3d 280, 1998 U.S. App. Lexis 15054 (5th Cir.). {N/R}
     Roll-call overtime is no different than other overtime. Bartoszewski v. Vil. of Fox Lake, 269 Ill. App.3d 978, 647 N.E.2d 591, 1995 Ill. App. Lexis 109; 207 Ill. Dec. 360; 2 WH Cases (BNA) 1230 {N/R)
     Whether meal periods are work time depends on the "predominant benefit" standard. Preparation for roll call periods by sergeants was a factual question not subject to a summary judgment motion. McGrath v. Philadelphia, 864 F.Supp. 466 (E.D.Pa. 1994). {N/R}
     Patrol officers and detectives were not entitled to pay for a 30-minute meal break, even if the village reserved the right to recall time during emergencies. Albee v. Bartlett, 861 F.Supp. 680 (N.D.Ill 1994). {N/R}
     Federal appeals court holds that meal periods of police officers was non compensable; restrictions imposed were not onerous. Houser v. N. Little Rock Police Dept., 6 F.3d 532 (8th Cir. 1993). [1994 FP 168]
     Corrections officers who were required to remain in the jail during meal periods, are not per say entitled to compensation; a jury should decide whether they are entitled to overtime. Householder v. Pulaski Co. Sheriff Dept., 6 F.3d 532 (8th Cir. 1993). [1994 FP 168]
     N.M. Dept. of Corr. agrees to pay $4,600,000 to officers who were not compensated during their lunch periods. AFSCME v. New Mex. Dept. of Corr., #SF-12359, Santa Fe Co. Dist. Ct., 31 (1530) G.E.R.R. (BNA) 1174 (1993). [1994 FP 6-7]
     Federal court in NC disallows deductions for "meal periods" of EMS personnel. Burgess v. Catawba Co., 805 F.Supp. 341 (W.D.N.C. 1992). [1993 FP 105]
     Police detectives in Emporia successful in asserting overtime claims for lunch periods; liquidated (double) damages allowed. Armitage v. City of Emporia, 782 F.Supp. 537 (D. Kan. 1992).
     Federal court approves $1.75 million settlement to compensate 200 sheriff's deputies for unpaid meal periods, standby time and legal expenses. Bernalillo Co. Dep. Sheriff's Assn. v. County of Bernalillo, 2d Jud. Dist. Ct. #CV 87-08136, 29 (1438) G.E.R.R. (BNA) 1420 (1991). [1992 FP 24]
     Federal court rules that restrictions for police officer meal periods were significant enough to hold they were work time, including meal breaks under 15 minutes. Wahl v. City of Wichita, 725 F.Supp. 1133 (D. Kan. 1989).
     Dispatchers who are required to stay in station during lunch period entitled to overtime pay. Madera Police Officers" Assn. v. City of Madera, 194 Cal.Rptr. 648 (App. 1983).

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