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Police Fight to Get Paid to Put On Uniform--Judge Rules Off-the-Clock Lawsuit Can Move Forward

May 14, 2010

Our Santa Ana, California Employment Attorneys have been following a recent off-the-clock lawsuit involving the proper compensation of police officers for time spent putting on and taking off their uniforms.

According to the lawsuit filed in 2007, Denver police officers are claiming that they should be compensated for the time spent putting on and taking off their uniforms for work--otherwise known as a "donning and doffing" lawsuit. The officers claim that putting on their uniform, guns, bulletproof vests, holsters and other equipment takes time, and that they should compensated from the moment they start to dress in the uniform and put on equipment--as it is an integral part of their workday.

Lawsuits like these have reportedly been increasing around the country after the Supreme Court upheld the rights of meat-packing workers in a 2005 case, who claimed they should have been paid for the extra time it took to put on ('donning') the gear before working, and take off ('doffing') after the workday is over--based on the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The police officers claim that they have been cheated out of overtime compensation for years, as the city of Denver has failed to compensate them for off-the-clock time spent for stepping into and taking off their uniforms.

In the lawsuit, the officers are also claiming that they should receive payment for the amount of time it takes to clean and maintain their uniforms and equipment and for time spent engaged in work-related activities before and after their assigned shifts, like report writing.

The Denver Post reports that U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch ruled that eight out of the ten claims filed by 843 police officers from Denver should move forward to trial, while two claims were dismissed. Matsch claimed that the uniform for a police officer should not be considered 'clothing,' rather a necessary uniform that signals authority--an element necessary for officer to effectively do his job. He compared the uniform of a police officer to the uniform, or robe, of a judge.

The Post reports that a similar wage and hour lawsuit has recently settled Oakland, California, where police officers were given extra vacation time in the settlement. For officers who were part of the original lawsuit but have now retired, cash payments were given.

If you or someone you know in Southern California has experienced a wage and hour issue in the workplace, our team of experienced California employment attorneys and professionals can help. Contact Howard Law, PC today, for a free consultation.

Denver Police Lawsuit Over Getting Paid to Get Dressed Can Proceed, The Denver Post, May 13, 2010

'Donning and Doffing' Suit to Go Forward, CBS4.com, May 12, 2010

Denver Police Officers Want Dollars to Dress, CBS4.com, July 6, 2009

Related Web Resources:

U.S. Department of Labor: Wage and Hour Division (WHD), WAGE AND HOUR ADVISORY MEMORANDUM NO. 2006-2: IBP v. Alvarez Press Release, May 31, 2006

U.S. Department of Labor: Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)