A Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, police officer has filed a federal lawsuit in the Middle District of Pennsylvania alleging that the city failed to pay the officer for approximately 15 hours of work over a 2-month period in late 2016.
The officer, Kara Kroll, alleges she sustained a work-related injury in October of 2016. As a result, she missed one week of work. Additionally, Kroll claims she was required to continue medical treatment with the city’s doctor for several weeks following the injury. According to Kroll’s complaint, the city refused to allow Kroll to schedule the appointments during her scheduled shifts. Kroll estimates she spent approximately 15 hours attending these appointments over the span of approximately 6 weeks in late 2016. Kroll is seeking compensation for time spent at the appointments, liquidated damages, attorneys’ fees, and court costs associated with her claim.
As a general rule, the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers pay employees for time spent at medical examinations required by the employer. However, there can be limited circumstances where the FLSA does not require compensation for some employer required medical exams. For more on that topic, please see “Mandatory Medical Exams and the FLSA.”
Additionally, state workers’ compensation laws typically apply to many of these situations. Whether Kroll’s allegations are best made in state workers’ comp court remains to be seen. However, let’s look a little deeper at Kroll’s complaint, the implications it may create, and ways that employers can avoid (or at least minimize) these types of FLSA claims.
According to Kroll’s complaint, she earns approximately $20 per hour. This would result in an overtime rate of $30 per hour. Kroll claims she is owed 15 hours of overtime. In sum, Kroll believes she is owed approximately $450 in compensation for the appointments. The Middle District of Pennsylvania charged Kroll’s attorney $400 just to file this FLSA complaint. If Kroll’s claims are proven, the city will likely owe Kroll $900 in back wages. Additionally, the city will be required to reimburse Kroll’s attorney for court costs related to the filing (including the $400 filing fee), plus the city will be responsible for paying Kroll’s attorney’s fees. Finally, unless the city has an FLSA attorney on staff, the city will likely be responsible for paying its own attorney’s or attorneys’ fees defending this claim. As you can see, the $450 in overtime may be quickly dwarfed by the costs of litigation, regardless of the eventual outcome.
Whether the city and Kroll could have avoided entering federal court over $450 worth of overtime may never be known. However, this complaint can serve as a useful example of the need for public safety organizations to have effective polices regarding these types of issues.
For example, Kroll cannot be the first police officer injured in the line of duty in Nanticoke. What is the police department’s policy regarding the compensability of work-related injuries, follow-up medical appointments, and time off for attendance at medical appointments?
Has the city examined federal and state laws pertaining to the compensability of workplace injuries and developed a policy aimed both at avoiding confusion and establishing consistent practices?
The city may have an established policy consistent with state and federal law. If the city followed that policy, then most likely Kroll’s complaint will be short-lived. However, if the city does not have a policy, or it did not follow policy in this instance, litigation could continue, and the $450 in overtime may be the least of the city’s concerns. We will follow this one as it develops.
Here is a copy of the complaint: