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Employment & Labor Law for Public Safety Agencies


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F.L.S.A. - Overtime - Canine Officers

     A police officer worked as a canine handler for around the last five years of his employment. He claimed that the department wiilfully failed to pay him overtime for many hours he spent off duty caring for a canine. The federal trial court noted that the statute of limitations for such overtime claims is two years, but held that it could be extended to three years in instances of willful violations, which the plaintiff was alleging. Claims older than three years, however, were ordered dismissed. Manning v City of Scottsboro, #5:2012-cv-04108, 2013 U.S. Dist. Lexis 12188 (N.D. Ala. 2013).
     An officer who is the human component of a police K-9 team can pursue a claim for overtime for the hours he spends, outside of the regular workday, caring for, training, grooming, and transporting his canine partner. While he is currently given a lump sum of $2,000 a year as supposed compensation for this work, he argued that this does not adequately compensate him for the time spent, and that he should be receiving time and a half for all the hours spent in excess of 40 per week. If the hours the officer claimed were accurate, the court found, he was being compensated less than the minimum wage for the extra time he spent each day taking care of the dog. Additionally, if the employer city does not compensate the officer for extra expenses for the dog, such as food, water, transport, and veterinarian bills, then his actual hourly pay was even lower. The court ruled that a jury must decide, as a factual matter, whether the $2,000 lump sum payment, agreed to by the officer's union, was reasonable, bringing it within an exception to the overtime requirement, or whether the officer was entitled to overtime for approximately 40 minutes a day. Diorio v. Village of Tinley Park, #11-C-6724, 2012 U.S. Dist. Lexis 93765, 19 Wage & Hour Cas. 2d (BNA) 834 (N.D. Ill.).
     Time spent by canine officers administering medications, feeding and training their dogs, and cleaning the kennel are compensable under the FLSA and must be paid as regular overtime. The fact that canine officers were paid an additional $1000 per year did not constitute an agreement between the parties. Lewallen v. Scott County, #3:08-cv-520, 724 F.Supp.2d 893, 2010 U.S. Dist. Lexis 69807 (E.D. Tenn. 2010).
     Sheriff's dog and bomb unit officer was not entitled to overtime pay for the time he spent caring for the dogs in his home. The bargaining agreements cited by management did not cover the issue, and one stated that it was not intended to supersede the FLSA's overtime requirements. Caminiti v. Co, of Essex, #04-4276, 2007 U.S. Dist. Lexis 56361 (D.N.J.).
     Federal appeals court affirms a judgment for $287,489.94 in overtime compensation, liquidated damages, attorneys' fees and costs under the Fair Labor Standards Act, awarded to six K9 officers with the Customs and Border Protection Service. The plaintiffs were uncompensated for certain home care duties. Bull v. U.S., #2006-5038, 2007 U.S. App. Lexis 5925, 12 WH Cases2d 699 (Fed Cir.).
     A bargaining agreement did not waive time-and-one-half overtime claims by U.S. Park Police canine officers. Long v. United States, #05-143C, 69 Fed. Cl. 566, 2006 U.S. Claims Lexis 36 (Fed. Cl. 2006). {N/R}
     Labor Dept. issues opinion that K9 officers can be paid less than their regular rate for dog care. Wage and Hour Opinion Letter, FLSA2006-10. [2006 FP Jun]
     Federal court finds that DHS canine enforcement officers were owed up to four additional hours of compensation a week for time spent laundering towels and preparing training aids for contraband-sniffing dogs, but off-duty time spent grooming the dogs or practicing with firearms was not compensable. DHS is liable for double back pay for willfully failing to compensate 60 customs officers for overtime. Bull v. United States, #01-56C, 2005 U.S. Claims Lexis 284, 10 WH Cases2d 1687; secondary orders at 2005 U.S. Claims Lexis 293 and 303 (Fed. Cl. 2005). [2006 FP Jan]
     Arbitrator holds that Customs inspectors and canine officers that are not covered by the Customs Officers Pay Reform Act [19 U.S. Code §267] are entitled to overtime pay under the FLSA. National Treas. Employees Union and U.S. Customs and Border Prot., 43 (2115) G.E.R.R. (BNA) 685 (Gootnick, 2005). {N/R}
      Federal court holds that a union waiver of the substantive statutory rights of employees, contained in a bargaining agreement, is unenforceable. Canine officers were entitled to assert FLSA overtime claims irrespective of the language in a Memorandum of Understanding. Bull v. United States, #01-56 C, 65 Fed. Cl. 407, 2005 U.S. Claims Lexis 118, 177 LRRM (BNA) 2137(Fed. Cl. 2005). [2005 FP Aug]
     Ninth Circuit declines to follow the FLSA provision that allows management and the union to agree on flat compensation for a K9 officer, because the amount was grossly inadequate. Leever v. Carson City, #02-16525, 2004 U.S. App. Lexis 4201, 9 WH Cases2d (BNA) 714 (9th Cir.), citing DoL/W&H Letter Opinion of Aug. 11, 1993, 1993 DOLWH Lexis 28,1993 WL 901171; Barrentine v. Arkansas-Best Freight Sys., 450 U.S. 728, 740, 101 S.Ct. 1437 (1981); Rudolph v. Metrop. Airports Cmsn., 103 F.3d 677 (8th Cir. 1996) and Holzapfel v. Town of Newburgh, #97-7114, 145 F.3d 516 (2d Cir. 1998). [2004 FP May]
     Federal appeals court concludes that the trial court erroneously dismissed an overtime suit because the city had followed the terms of the union-negotiated bargaining agreement. The FLSA, not the contract, controls overtime. Howard v. City of Springfield, #00-1834, 2001 U.S. App. Lexis 26414 (7th Cir.). {N/R}
     A collective bargaining agreement which required a city to pay K9 officers 17 minutes of straight-time pay per day for at-home dog- care activities was reasonable, in light of other benefits and financial incentives. Brock v. City of Cincinnati, #99-3121, 236 F.3d 793, 2001 U.S. App. Lexis 686, 6 WH Cases2d (BNA) 1197, 2001 FED App. 0021P (6th Cir.). [2001 FP 39]
     Federal court allows a police dept. to pay a reduced pay rate for off-duty dog care activities. Sec. 7(g)(2) of the FLSA permits “an agreement or understanding” arrived at time and one-half the special rate. Henchy v. City of Absecon, #00-1353, 7 WH Cases2d 183 (D.N.J. 2001). See also, Albanese v. Bergen Co., 991 F.Supp. 410, 6 WH Cases2d 399 (D.N.J. 1998). {N/R}
     Sheriff's Dept. must pay K-9 officers for off-duty time spent grooming, cleaning, exercising, cleaning dog's living areas and vehicles, feeding, watering, and training. Albanese v. Bergen Co., 991 F.Supp. 410, 1997 U.S. Dist. Lexis 20758, 6 WH Cases2d (BNA) 399 (D.N.J. 1997). {N/R}
     Federal court in D.C. increases off-duty time of police canine officers spent on feeding, exercising and grooming dogs from 15 to 30 minutes per day. Levering v. Dist. of Columbia, 869 F.Supp. 24 (D.D.C. 1994). [1995 FP 71]
     Federal court in Chicago rules that Chicago police canine officers were entitled to be paid for the time they transported their dogs to and from work in unmarked police cars. This time was not excludable under the Portal-to-Portal Act. Graham v. City of Chicago, 828 F.Supp. 576 (N.D.Ill. 1993). [1994 FP 150]
     Federal appeals court affirms back pay award to canine officer for feeding and exercise time. Truslow v. Spotsylvania Co. Sheriff, 1993 U.S.App. Lexis 11123 (Unpublished, 4th Cir. 1993). [1993 FP 118-19]
     Federal Courts in Illinois and Virginia refuse to dismiss overtime claims by canine officers who cared for department-owned dogs in their homes. Virginia court says employees can receive double damages, even where the employer acted in good faith. Nichols v. City of Chicago, 789 F.Supp. 1438 (N.D.Ill. 1992); Truslow v. Spotsylvania County Sheriff, 783 F.Supp. 274 (E.D.Va. 1992); affirmed 1993 U.S.App. Lexis 11123 (4th Cir. 1993). [1992 FP 152-3]
     Suit filed to compel the NYTAPD to pay canine officers for the time spent transporting the dogs between work and home. Martin v. New York Transit Authority, #CV 89-4284 (EDNY). [1992 FP 153-4]
     Dept. of Labor challenged NYC Transit Authority in behalf of police canine officers seeking compensation for travel time. Martin v. N.Y. Transit Auth., #CV 89-4284 (E.D.N.Y. 1989). (See also 839 F.Supp. 171 for follow-up). [1992 FP 153-4]
     

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