City po­lice union sues over OT pay­ments

Of­fi­cers claim they were un­der­paid for past 3 years

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Justin Fen­ton

Bal­ti­more’s po­lice union is seek­ing class-ac­tion sta­tus for a law­suit filed against the city re­cently in U.S. Dis­trict Court that al­leges a wide­spread and on­go­ing prac­tice of un­der­pay­ment of over­time for of­fi­cers.

The law­suit claims that the city has been mis­cal­cu­lat­ing over­time rates for of­fi­cers for at least three years — a time pe­riod that has seen po­lice over­time spike amid a re­duc­tion in po­lice staffing and ris­ing vi­o­lent crime.

At­tor­neys for the union, who did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment, said in their com­plaint that they can’t put a num­ber or dol­lar fig­ure on the amount of loss, but that it af­fects more than 2,600 po­lice union mem­bers. They are seek­ing dam­ages plus in­ter­est.

“The sworn men and women of the Bal­ti­more Po­lice De­part­ment work tire­lessly to keep Bal­ti­more City safe,” the law­suit says. “Plain­tiffs sim­ply ask to be com­pen­sated for over­time hours in ac­cor­dance with all laws.”

City of­fi­cials de­clined to ad­dress the claims in the law­suit or pro­vide back­ground on the dis­pute.

“We are re­view­ing the al­le­ga­tions of

the law­suit and will re­spond to the com­plaint ac­cord­ingly,” city spokesman An­thony McCarthy said. “It is our pol­icy not to com­ment on on­go­ing lit­i­ga­tion.”

The suit cites the Fair La­bor Stan­dards Act, which es­tab­lished the 40-hour work week and over­time pay for some work­ers ex­ceed­ing it, and says it af­fects “all of­fi­cers in the same man­ner.”

Of­fi­cers are sup­posed to be paid 1.5 times their hourly wage for over­time work, the union said cit­ing its mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing with the city.

The law­suit shows payslips for of­fi­cers in three dif­fer­ent classes cov­ered by the con­tract. The union’s cal­cu­la­tions for the time of­fi­cers worked and what they were paid shows them be­ing paid 3 per­cent less than time-and-a-half.

The union’s lawyers say they raised con­cerns about over­time pay rates be­fore Oc­to­ber 2014, and said the city cor­rected the er­ror. That month, the union filed a griev­ance re­quest­ing city re-cal­cu­late “all af­fected mem­bers’ over­time rate of pay for the last three years prior to cor­rect­ing their mis­take.”

But now, the union al­leges, the city re­verted to the pre­vi­ous, in­cor­rect over­time rates.

Ear­lier this year, po­lice said over­time was ex­pected to reach $49 mil­lion for the fis­cal year end­ing in June — more than three times the amount bud­geted. Po­lice sought to curb spend­ing for the fi­nal weeks of the year, and the fi­nal amount spent on over­time for the year was $39.8 mil­lion, McCarthy said Fri­day.

In fis­cal year 2015, $20.1 mil­lion was bud­geted for po­lice over­time, and $35.1 mil­lion was spent, in­clud­ing an es­ti­mated $7.75 mil­lion dur­ing the un­rest in April and May af­ter Fred­die Gray’s death from a spinal in­jury sus­tained in po­lice cus­tody.

Con­tribut­ing to the spike in over­time pay­ment is a de­cline in man­power, with hun­dreds of po­si­tions frozen, in ad­di­tion to reg­u­lar va­can­cies and of­fi­cers on sus­pen­sion or med­i­cal leave.

The law­suit asks the court to cer­tify its law firm, Sch­lach­man, Bel­sky & Weiner, as coun­sel for the class of af­fected of­fi­cers.

The union has sev­eral on­go­ing le­gal fights with the city.

A long­stand­ing le­gal ac­tion re­lated to pen­sion changes con­tin­ues in state courts, while the union re­cently claimed a vic­tory over pro­mo­tions af­ter an of­fi­cer sued claim­ing su­per­vi­sor va­can­cies were not be­ing filled in a “rea­son­able pe­riod of time.”

KARL MERTON FERRON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

The Bal­ti­more po­lice union wants the city to re­cal­cu­late over­time pay­ments.

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