Adolfo Jimenez, a former police officer for the City of Parlier, California, has filed a federal law suit in the Eastern District of California, claiming the city violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The suit alleges the city failed to adequately compensate Jimenez for off-the-clock work related to the care, training, maintenance, and transport of his police work dog. The complaint also alleges the city failed to calculate Jimenez’s regular rate correctly, also in violation of the FLSA.
According to the complaint, which was filed earlier this month, the city provided Jimenez with an additional 30 minutes of pay every day as compensation for “time spent transporting, boarding, training, grooming, feeding, or otherwise caring for the dog while off duty.” Jimenez alleges this amount of time was “unreasonable.” The complaint also alleges this additional compensation should have been included in Jimenez’s regular rate of pay for FLSA overtime purposes. There is a copy of Jimenez’s complaint below.
Properly compensating public safety officers that are required to live with and board work canines can present unique challenges for city administrators. As a general rule, the time an officer spends caring for his or her work dog while off-duty needs to be counted as hours worked when it is for the “employers benefit.” Very often employers will reach agreements with employees designed to compensate officers for this time. Typically, there is an estimated or averaged amount of time that the officer receives as compensation in exchange for his or her off-the-clock activities.
Despite the existence of these agreements off-the-clock claims like this are extremely difficult to avoid. Having comprehensive policies and procedures in place before a claim arises is often the best and only course of action for city administrators. These policies and procedures should include at a minimum; a requirement that all employees report and document all off-the-clock work. Comprehensive policies and procedures related to off-the-clock work activities can help avoid significant legal costs and liabilities in the event an employer is ever faced with an FLSA suit for off-the-clock claims.
This is one of many topics covered in-depth at all of our upcoming FLSA for Fire Departments seminars. Please consider joining us.