fair labor laws???

Robocop

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After many hours of searching google I have been unable to make much of the legal jumbo and am curious if anyone can give any information on a labor problem at my work.

I am in the state of Alabama and work for a very large Police dept with over 950 sworn officers. My job is in patrol and I am at one of 4 precincts. The biggest problem is that my employer simply cancels my normal days off and demands that I work over the normal 40 hour week. This has been done in the past for several events such as ball games or the fair and when they need to staff such events they simply cancel patrol officers off days. They do not cancel everyones days off at times and seem to single out patrol officers. In the most recent example it seems that detectives and other city employees did not have their days off cancelled.

Can you imagine your employer simply saying you will not be allowed your off days this week?....can this be done? I am not sure if there is some weird exemption for police officers or something like that however you would think with such a dangerous job there would be some form of federal law regulating the hours placed on a peace officer. Seems like to me fatigue would be something an employer would not want to have with their officers however this has been done several times in the past.

Also when I work overtime such as a late call and I have lets say 50 hours for the week I only get paid for 40. The excess is placed in a book as comp time to be taken off later. Once I build over a certain amount (80 hrs) then they will pay me for anything over that. Lets say I have 88 comp hours then I get 8 hours of pay however it is only for straight time and not the time and a half rate as the rest of the working world....also can this be done?

From what I have read so far Fair labor laws mandate that an employer must pay time and a half rate for any overtime however there is so much legal mumbo jumbo I can not really understand if I am somehow exempt as an officer.

If there are any legal experts here or simply anyone with suggestions I would appreciate any input. More than anything if there are any officers with similiar problems here that would also be nice to have any input from you as well. I am basically very angry as my off days and family time are very important to me however they are stripped away at random simply because my employer decides to do so....thanks for looking and I may be over reacting here however it is nice to vent a little.
 

ohiocopper

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Sorry to hear them yanking you like that Robo.

I have a freind that is a corrections officer here in Ohio.
And he gets the same thing as you but he still gets his days off, he works several doubles, very unsafe in my opinion, he gets "froze"

I hate not having any good advice for you, but as for it being unsafe I %100 agree with you.
We have to be and are expected to be better than %100 at all times, pushing an officer past that is unsafe and unfair to the officer.
I find some of the City PD sleeping in their cars, an example of the above.
I would say get some good advice from the state, hit the top first!
I would hope there is some federal mandates that could help.

http://www.dol.gov/esa/contacts/state_of.htm#AL

If all else fails, consult a good attorney.
Obviously keep the atty thing on the low within your dept.

Stay Safe!
 
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Robocop

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Thanks for the input OhioCopper....I agree it is unsafe and it is beginning to have a more long term effect on morale within the Dept. We are losing officers at a drastic rate and this type of behavior does not help us to keep any veteran officers nor does it offer much to new hires.

I was hoping to find something in writing in regards to federal law on this topic. I planned to print it out and post it on our bulletin board at work. Most of the information I have found is vague on the topic of off days and just how many days an employer could require one to work without off days.

I think what angers myself,and co-workers most, is the fact that it appears that our personal time and families means nothing to our Dept. It seems as if no other options were tried to staff these special events before they simply cancelled our off days. It is also my opinion that if our city can not hold an event without fear of crime running rampant then do not have any events in the first place. Why ask for trouble when you can avoid it however I am not in charge so to them I am simply a number in a uniform.

Man I am so angry about this I can not even think straight right now. I have spoken with many co-workers this week and I fear many of them are on the verge of simply walking away from their career. If anyone can find anything on Alabama labor laws relating to this please post a link here or send me a PM if you like. Thanks again for reading and I will keep you all posted as to what happens in the future.
 

paulr

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Try the legal forum on craigslist.org. Does your PD have a union? The ones here do. If you have one it should certainly be willing to get involved. If you don't, maybe it's time for one.
 

atm

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Not sure if these are of any help/interest:


According to the Alabama Dept of Labor website;

http://www.alalabor.state.al.us/FAQ.htm#What%20is%20the%20minimum%20wage%20in%20Alabama

Who handles the Wage & Hour Laws?
The State of Alabama Department of Labor does not have any wage and hour laws other than the law pertaining to the payment of wages. Section 25-3-4 states that the department will investigate and attempt to collect on wage claims. This office attempts to collect wages for employees who have worked and have not received their pay. With regard to other wage & hour laws such as overtime, minimum wage and salaried/hourly contact the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment Standards Administration at their website “www.dol.gov/esa”.

At the US Dept of Labor website there is a section on work hours and safety (with most govt websites being impenetrable mazes it may not be of much help though?);

http://www.dol.gov/compliance/laws/comp-cwhssa.htm


Not exactly about hours and your rights but this study, which is apparently running now, may be of interest;

http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct/gui/show/NCT00246051

Good luck getting some decent answers.

Andrew
 

BB

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Here is a Labor Law forum... Seems to be pretty busy, even has state by state sections for questions:

www.laborlawtalk.com

Do you know if you are an exempt (typically management) or non-exempt employee? If you are non-exempt, overtime pay is required. I see there is an exception for police departments with less than 5 employee (may be defined as an exempt employee??--does not apply to you). Many companies try to convert everyone to exempt employees to save OT pay--however, it sounds like you should be non-exempt. From reading around, many private employers try to keep secret the employee's status (try to say employee is exempt--non hourly worker--to save OT, but then not pay for holidays and short days worked).

I always heard that offering Comp. Time was not allowed, but if the employee did not complain it was a method for exempt workers to be convinced to work OT without extra pay. I have not heard (in my little world) of offering an hourly employee Comp. Time.

DOL OT Exemptions


Looks like there are a couple of DOL offices in Alabama--you should probably see if one of them can be helpful or not:

DOL Offices/Contact Phone Number

Otherwise, you may have to look around for another employer... Out west here, the large departments do the training and the small(er) departments hire the now trained officers.

Good Luck,
-Bill
 

Knight Lights

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Most public safety/health employees are exempt from the 40/hour week laws in most states, or so I was told by the union when I was a public health employee.

It got bad enough in the hospital where I worked that people would refuse to answer the phone so they couldn't be called in. When they were told they had to be available by phone, they turned their phones off. When they were told they had to have a phone, they stopped paying their bill and let the phone company turn it off so that they could say truthfully that they couldn't get a phone!

For some reason, health/safety bosses don't get the fact that working too many hours makes YOU unsafe!

Bill
 
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Empath

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Comp time regulations are spelled out by contract negotiations rather than law or legislation. Labor law permits an exception to law regarding monetary overtime compensation, provided it's negotiated through contract negotiations. What that means is that your situation is even more unique and specific to your case than even the differences between the laws of different states and localities.

The bulk of the contracts that permit comp time, limit it to consensus between employer and employee. If yours doesn't, and leaves it totally up to the employers only, then do everything you can to oust and replace your present union officers. Comp time must be mutual agreeable, with neither side able to initiate without the consent of the other. Otherwise, either party, employer or employee, can use it to exploit the other. The ability to use comp time is a plus to both sides. In negotiations, comp time should either be beneficial to both labor and management, or it should be dropped. One-sided comp time demands would be advantageous only to the one making the determination.

Stay as educated about your contract rights and responsibilities, as you would with any other rights and responsibilities. The other side will, and will exploit any "loophole" or ignorance factor they note. It's part of their job to know the loopholes, grey areas of the contract, and little infractions that goes unchallenged.
 

Lightraven

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Sorry to hear it, Robocop. I have been in similar situations with my agency, working a six day week for a month--which was about 59 hours, more or less. We have two types of overtime--one for scheduled overtime, like your special events, and the other for daily overtime over 8 hours that kicks in almost every day--except for training days. We work, nominally, at least 50 hours during typical weeks.

Most of these issues are pretty complicated. We are in one minor skirmish with the agency to get paid one type of overtime instead of the other for an extra two hours we had to work last week. We aren't sure what is going to happen. I would try to get your union involved. Our union has some juice. Not just for overtime and pay issues, but to publicize lack of enforcement and get the citizens to push for more aggressive law enforcement.

You might contact U.S. Department of Labor to see if any laws are being violated.

Finally, cops are in high demand right now. You could probably get a lateral transfer someplace better. And, over the years, I've gone through periods of long workweeks, but it usually lightens up eventually, so hang in there.
 

Robocop

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A little update....

I have learned that Alabama has no state laws on this area and will refer back to federal law. I found many items that related to child labor and minimum wage type topics however nothing on minimum number of days required to work in a set time period.

I read on one of the forum links above that there is no such laws as to off days. One member even showed a link that stated an employer could hire a man with the agreement that he was to work 365 days a year and if he did not like it he could go somewhere else. Basically off days are not regulated in any way however the overtime paid when working over is in many ways.

It would seem that there would be some type of safety regulations in effect when dealing with police officers. I am basing this along the lines of lets say over the road big truck drivers. I know that they have to keep a log showing the days and hours they have worked. Safety laws in effect limit the number of days they can work due to fatigue and safety.....I wonder why this does not apply to all jobs that are dangerous by nature.

Regardless I still have cancelled off days until further notice and do not like it at all. I am not alone as there are some 950 co-workers who are also steaming mad about this. Our union is not really a union and more of a group. I pay dues to my F.O.P. and this gives me some stability such as free legal representation and more insurance. It does little to negotiate labor disputes however something is better than nothing I believe.
 

Brighteyez

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What you've described is part of the job in most public safety agencies. While it is more likely to occur in small departments or even moderate sized departments such as yours since there is a smaller pool to draw from. Sworn officers (and dispatchers) are FLSA exempt from the 8 hour day and 40 hour week rule, but not from overtime compensation, as 4/10 and 12/3 schedules don't really fall into that the 8/5 week method of calculation.

As state laws and department procedures will vary from one locale to the other, in addition to local memorandums of understanding with local labor organizations, you'd probably be best served by consulting your POA or FOP rep/steward for clarification to your local procedures. Additionally, your payroll department may be able to clarify how and when overtime is calculated into your pay.

Insofar as cancelled days off, can't help you, that's pretty common in any department nowadays, and it's not uncommon in private industry jobs either. On the other hand, I do remember that things like an 18-20 hour shift for a dignatary visit detail does make for a nice fat payday ;).
 

Lightraven

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The part about dignitary protection reminds me of one of our guys who left for Secret Service. When I saw him 6-12 months later, he said he had just been working for three months straight without one day off. He said he'd been all over the world and was back from Africa.

I heard he quit not long after. It was too bad because I remember him trying to decide between offers from FBI and Secret Service. He also had an offer from U.S. Marshal Service. Strangely enough, he didn't receive an offer from DEA. He was really excited about Secret Service, but the reality from another Agent I talked to leaves a lot to be desired--non stop work and travel. Burnout is a real problem. Same thing with DEA, except the travel part. DEA doesn't pay overtime on an hourly basis, so the temptation is to work them into the ground. Secret Service does, but when do you have time to enjoy your six figure income?

We have enough guys with child support payments to make voluntary overtime a hot commodity. I rarely have to work it.
 

Sub_Umbra

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I'm also very sad to hear about your situation. While I'm no lawyer and have no professional advice I would advise you to proceed slowly and with caution and great deliberation. Even if you decide to talk to a lawyer be sure to do the research to try to make sure that he would actually be on your side. Good luck.
 

Robocop

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You are correct Sub_Umbra as there have been many officers who have protested in the past and most of the time they are harrassed in many ways. I have to be sure and cover my bases here and proceed within the rules so as not to leave myself open.

We have a rule and regulation book that is honestly about 8 inches thick....it is almost impossible to know all the rules and they like it that way I sometimes believe.

I am really not one to cause trouble and have learned how to work daily without fear of getting in trouble with my Dept. I simply think this hit me the wrong way and I am so very angry. To put it in a nutshell I have been here daily for almost 10 years. I have almost 800 sick hours built up as I never call in nor am I ever late.....I have lost family, friends, a marriage, my personal life, and even almost lost my life on several nights however I stay loyal to my Dept......To re-pay my loyalty they cancel my days off and act as if I should simply go with the flow.

There comes a time when enough is enough and many of my co-workers feel this way. From day one I told myself if I ever grew to hate my work I would quit. In all the years the criminals and danger never phased me and I loved every day of my work....now sad to say it is my own Dept. that is slowly pushing many of us away.

On a positive note in my searching I have found many Departments that are much worse so in a way I feel I should count my blessings and tough it out for 10 more years until I can retire. Regardless thanks for all the suggestions as well as listening to me vent a little.
 
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