FLSA overtime claims have resulted in recoveries for K-9 Officers,
Detectives and Investigators, "Special Services" Officers, Rank
and File Officers, and (in some cases) Command Officers.
The most common police
FLSA overtime claims involve "off-the-clock" work. The following
activities may be compensable when performed during "off-the-clock"
time: Care and maintenance of police equipment (e.g., police dogs,
vehicles, guns, uniforms), work performed before or after regular
shifts, police-related paperwork and telephone calls, working through
meal periods, training time (to the extent such hours are not included
in regular pay).
Other police FLSA overtime
cases have involved employers' computing FLSA overtime rates improperly
by not factoring in "wage augments" such as longevity pay or shift
differentials, or when employers have improperly classified officers
as exempt employees.
Liquidated damages and
attorneys' fees are available to police officers under the FLSA.
Some "Special Rules"
Police K-9 handlers have recovered substantial FLSA overtime for
off-the-clock time spent feeding, exercising, training, grooming,
and cleaning up after police dogs. (Similar considerations may apply
to other police "special services" officers.)
A police K9 handler's
FLSA pay is supposed to be calculated based on all the time spent
performing K9 activities which are reasonably related to maintain
the police dog for the job. This may vary from handler to handler,
dog to dog, and job to job. There is no "industry standard" recognized
by the law. Some Departments use a "stipend" or other system to
compensate K9 handlers. To comply with the FLSA, a stipend should
be "hours based" (and not merely a percentage of wages), and the
amount should be based on a reasonable estimate of the actual amount
of time spent. Historically, many stipends do not comply with the
Each K9 handler's circumstances
will vary. Evaluation of individual situations is required to determine
whether a handler is being paid properly. In addition, it is impossible
to predict how much money any particular handler's FLSA lawsuit
might be worth with any degree of accuracy, except on an individual
basis. The number of hours worked will vary from handler to handler.
The number of hours worked which are compensable will also vary,
depending on the handler's work records and schedules, and not all
compensable hours worked will be overtime hours. The "arithmetic"
necessary to compute a handler's potential recovery can be somewhat
peculiar under the FLSA. Nonetheless, many K9 handlers have recovered
quite substantial sums as a result of FLSA cases.
Detectives and Investigators.
Most police detectives and investigators are "nonexempt" and therefore
eligible for overtime under the FLSA. Detectives
and Investigators may perform "off-the-clock" work including job-related
telephone calls at home (e.g., with informants, prosecutors or other
officers), police paperwork at home, going to meetings, work performed
before and after regular shifts (e.g., "roll calls," or finishing
up reports without "putting in" for overtime), working through meal
Command Officers. Many police command officers (typically lieutenants
and above, and maybe some sergeants) will likely be exempt employees,
and not entitled to overtime pay under the FLSA. Occasionally some
police command officers may be mistakenly classified as overtime
exempt. To be exempt, police command officers must meet the "salary
tests" and "duties tests" requirements (see, "Coverage
under the FLSA").
The "7(k) Exemption."
Police employers may establish "alternative work periods" for police
officers. If properly set up, these may increase the FLSA overtime
thresholds beyond the normal 40 hour week, which means that officers
in such departments are not entitled to FLSA overtime until they
have exceeded the "7(k)" thresholds.
Police employers may pay some FLSA overtime with "comp. time"
instead of cash. Comp. time systems must be set up properly, and
there are some fairly technical rules governing FLSA comp. time.
Comp. time in lieu of cash for FLSA overtime must be paid at time
and one-half. A department may "cap" the number of hours
officers may carry in the FLSA comp. time banks, in any amount up
to 480 hours. Employers may not impose a "use it or lose it"
requirement, however employers may require officers to "burn"
accrued FLSA comp. time, or may buy out FLSA comp. time accruals
in cash. Employees do not have the right to trade FLSA comp. time
for cash (except when they leave the job). The case law on the right
to use comp. time is in flux. The current weight of the law is that
employers may require reasonable advance notice when an employee
wishes to use accrued FLSA comp. time. Employers must permit employees
to use accrued FLSA comp. time within a reasonable time after request,
provided that the officer's absence will not create a genuine operational
problem for the employer.