Legal Officers Section

2005 IACP Conference

Miami, Florida


Panel Presentation

Avoiding Employment Law Liability


Jack Collins

General Counsel

Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association


  1. Recruitment and hiring


    1. Application form and procedures

                                                    i.     Use standard form

                                                  ii.     Approved by state’s anti-discrimination agency

    1. Physical fitness testing

                                                    i.     Don’t get too creative

                                                  ii.     Approved by state’s anti-discrimination agency

    1. Screening

                                                    i.     Use assessment center

                                                  ii.     Don’t develop own test


  1. Disability leave


    1. Maternity leave

                                                    i.     Adopt policy before need it

1.     Union agreement

2.     State’s anti-discrimination agency ok

                                                  ii.     Talk with employee

1.     Be open

2.     Show concern

    1. Reasonable accommodation

                                                    i.     Catch your breath

                                                  ii.     Check on law before speaking

                                                iii.     Involve union

    1. Family medical leave act

                                                    i.     Get familiar

                                                  ii.     Check state requirements

                                                iii.     Involve union


  1. Avoid retaliation


    1. Whistleblower protections
    2. “count to one hundred”


  1. Sexual harassment


    1. Train everyone
    2. Adopt policy and use it
    3. Union involvement
    4. Walk around; be attentive



Jody Litchford

Deputy City Attorney

Orlando, FL



     1.    Fair Labor Standards Act


a.  Make sure you have properly classified employees as exempt or non-exempt. 

                                                    i.     Review classifications of police sergeants and lieutenants for managerial functions

                                                  ii.     Review discipline policies for compliance with FLSA


b.     Ensure that any work “suffered or permitted” is appropriately paid

                                                    i.     Review any activities performed offsite

                                                  ii.     Just having a policy requiring prior approval of extra work is not enough


c.      Include safe harbor language in your policies:


It is the policy of ____________ to comply with the salary basis requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  We therefore prohibit any improper deductions from the salaries of exempt employees.  All employees should be aware of this policy and understand that the City does not allow deductions that violate the FLSA.


If you believe that an improper deduction has been made to your salary, you should immediately report this information to your direct supervisor, or to the Human Resources Class and Pay section.


Reports of improper deductions will be promptly investigated.  If it is determined that an improper deduction has occurred, the employee will be promptly reimbursed for any improper deduction made.


2.     Due Process


a.      Build appropriate due process into your discipline system

b.     Some process is due whenever there is a property or a liberty interest at stake

c.      An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure



Martin Mayer

General Counsel

California Police Chiefs Association


      1.  Administrative investigations


            a.   Early warning systems

b.     Just cause disciplinary actions

c.      Due process issues


2.     The impact of Brady v. Maryland on disciplinary decisions


3.     Training obligations


a.  Deliberate indifference

b.  Electronic and/or impact weapons.



Beverly Ginn

Legal Advisor

Tucson Police Department


1.  Evaluation process


      a.  Either don’t do one, or do an accurate one.

b.  Add to your form a signature block that the employee must sign that states that the employee is: 1) aware of EEO and harassment complaint procedures and 2) does not currently have an EEO or harassment complaint.


2.  Train every supervisor, prior to day one on the job, on the recognition of employment law problems.  In other words, make sure everyone knows when to ask for help.


3.  Application process


Make sure every applicant signs a liability release for purposes of the background check and make sure that the release permits you to reveal to the current employer anything you discover.


  1. Deal with and/or immediately remove unethical, incompetent, or lazy supervisors.