Chicago Police Officer Sues for Off-Duty Work Done on Department-Issued Blackberry
A police officer has filed a lawsuit for lack of overtime pay against the city of Chicago. Sergeant Jeffery Allen, a police officer in the organized crime unit, claims he was deprived of overtime compensation for the hours worked from home on his department-issued Blackberry cell phone.
Members of law enforcement have indicated that Blackberries are a critical tool for law enforcement officers, and as a result, police officers are constantly using the device–often on their own time. Although most police officers are not paid by the hour and therefore exempt from overtime compensation, officers in Allen’s position who work on an hourly wage are entitled to overtime compensation.
University of Illinois Chicago professor Robert Bruno has expressed concern with regards to labor law in the United States in general, and has stated that although technology is far ahead of the law, Allen’s claim may have merit because the lack of overtime compensation for the off duty use of the Blackberry may violate the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Specifically, Professor Bruno noted that if the phone calls were indeed work related, the overtime compensation “will add up.” The City has responded by pointing to work policies and procedures implemented to permit officers to request overtime pay. Furthermore, the City has suggested that Allen’s claim at its best a “union grievance,” not a federal lawsuit. However, despite hearing claims from sources such as the mayor that the lawsuit was “silly,” Allen’s attorney has been granted permission to bring the lawsuit forward. The lawsuit will proceed as a class action, although it is unclear how many of the roughly 200 organized crime unit police officers will join Allen. There have been other lawsuits involving similar facts filed in the private sector that reached confidential settlements, but this case stands apart because it involves public sector employees.
Such conduct by the City of Chicago could be a violation of federal law under the FLSA, which prohibits an employer from denying overtime compensation to non-exempt (employees paid a wage by the hour as opposed to a salary).
If you feel you have been deprived of overtime compensation by your employer, please contact Khorrami, LLP for a private consultation.