Wage disputes often occur when an employee feels he or she hasn’t been compensated fairly for performing duties at work, or under contract.
FLSA Section 7(k) states that law enforcement employees may be “paid overtime on a ‘work period’ basis.” Meaning, working 7-28 consecutive days in length. This doesn’t, however, cover standby pay or on-call pay.
In 1992, it was determined that on-call/standby pay was determined on a case-by-case basis, according to Owens v. Local 169 ruling. This makes it difficult to say that there is a “golden standard” of which each county and state operates under regarding this type of pay for their law enforcement employees. The time deputies spend on-call are often times used for personal use, which is why the compensation is sometimes not granted.
Most states and counties have their own established policy regarding this type of pay – and Baltimore County, MD is no different. Their policies were disputed when a deputy sheriff wasn’t receiving pay for weekend shifts, in compliance with the Memorandum of Understanding between Baltimore County and the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 25.
Let’s take a look at how this wage dispute was settled.
The dispute between Baltimore County (the “County”) and the Fraternal Order of the Police, Lodge 25 (“FOP 25”) occurred when a deputy sheriff filed a grievance with the County regarding stand-by pay. He claimed that under Section 8.3 of the Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”), he wasn’t getting paid for the time he was placed on-call for “weekend fugitive” duty.
What started as a grievance was converted to a class grievance – the request for stand-by pay for this weekend duty affected all deputies who worked this rotating shift.
This dispute went to arbitration when the County filed a motion to dismiss the grievance for not being submitted timely.
The arbitrator ruled that the filing was not late because it was based on a reading of a poorly constructed MOU. The grievance was allowed because the County broke the MOU and federal labor relation laws by creating this new category of work for which the deputies weren’t getting paid!
The wording in the MOU states, “A standard call back and standby policy shall be established for each section and/or department.” So a policy for “weekend fugitive” duty hadn’t been established, making the arbitrator’s ruling agreeable.
Because the County didn’t win that battle, they filed a complaint to vacate the arbitration award. The FOP 25 returned with a motion to dismiss the County’s complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
All of this back and forth, just for the Court of Appeals to grant the motion to dismiss! The FOP 25 won this case, making it a big win for their attorney, Dilip Paliath, Esq.
Other Cases for the Books
This isn’t the first time that law enforcement has taken their compensation negotiations to court. Since they are settled on a case-by-case basis, there leaves a lot of room for discussion.
For example, in the case of Bright v. Houston Nw. Med. Ctr. Survivor, Inc., a hospital required that their on-call bio-medical technicians to be reachable, sober, and arrive at the hospital 20 minutes after being called in. The technician was receiving calls 4-5 times a week. However, the court ruled that his time on-call could be used for personal purposes, so the time spent on call was not compensable.
On the other hand, in Renfro v. City of Emporia, the court decided that time on-call was compensable for firefighters who were required to be reachable at all times and respond to callbacks within 20 minutes and received as many as 13 calls in a 24-hour period.
On the facts and circumstances of each wage dispute and compensation request, the court will base its opinion and ruling for each case.
The United States Department of Labor determines whether or not on-call time is compensable, and bases their opinion on facts. Here is an example of a Fair Labor Standards Act Opinion Letter.
The Final Verdict
Because there aren’t any laws for determining a standard compensation package for on-call and standby pay, this win for Mr. Paliath is even more significant.
Whether you have wage negotiations, compensation disputes, or simply in need of sage legal advice, Dilip Paliath expertise and knowledge of the law is essential to your winning team.
Call today for your free consultation! Mr. Paliath is committed to making sure that you are justly represented, no matter how complex the situation may be.