Chicago police sue for email overtime pay
Hundreds of officers may join a sergeant in a lawsuit seeking pay for off-hours messages from bosses.
Chicago police Sgt. Jeffrey Allen filed a lawsuit in 2010 claiming that the city owes him and fellow officers overtime pay for work performed on department BlackBerry phones.
Last month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier said the plaintiff had demonstrated sufficient merit for the lawsuit to continue and, on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that attorneys for both Allen and the city told a judge they had agreed on the wording of documents that will be sent to other officers asking if they want to join the lawsuit.
Up to 200 other officers are expected to join the suit and turn in thousands of email and phone records to see which qualify for overtime pay. Depending on how conservatively each officer deleted those messages, it could result in millions of dollars in back pay.
This has obvious and broad-reaching ramifications for any hourly employee and any employer who wants to keep them on electronic tethers without making them salaried staffers. Granted, Judge Schenkier said it still needs to be determined whether or not answering calls or scanning emails can be defined as work, but there's a lot riding on Allen's lawyers' arguments on that point.
"Everybody can relate to this because people are being asked all the time these days to work for free and they are being told to work for free using their phones," Allen's attorney Paul Geiger said.
There are just a few problems with this suit. First off, it involves the city's organized crime bureau, which is pretty much always on call in a traditionally mobbed-up, gang-heavy city like Chicago. Secondly, despite the officer's claims that he and his colleagues were dissuaded from using overtime, the city claims that Allen's disputed emails are a mishmash of urgent messages and items that could have waited until he went back on shift. Former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley called the suit “silliness” when it was introduced three years ago.
It's getting fewer chuckles now that it's advanced this far. While there's no precedent for e-overtime on this scale here in the U.S., Brazil decided last year that employees aren't limitless resources and ruled that any e-mails they receive after work hours constitute overtime.
It's easier to laugh this kind of labor dispute off in a jobless recession, but taking liberties with the workforce is much tougher once the recovery begins. When everyone starts feeling less like survival-programmed drones and more like humans, they tend to want to be treated as such.
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HOWEVER, to be fair, employers should dock the pay of cops and all workers for any personal phone calls, emails, texts, web surfing, etc when they are on the clock.
I think you'll find instead of millions of dollars in back-pay, you'll have millions of dollars in over-pay.
If your boss needs to contact you and discuss work issues than I consider it work related. i used to carry two phones at work. one work phone that they paid for and one for me. Anything work related was on company phone. But you need to make sure all numbers are work related only on work phone. oother wise you are using work phone for personal and that is not right.. that way there is a record of how much a person actually worked in excess of work agreement. Even salaried persons are entilted to overtime. you just need to have it put in any work agreement that is made. Case solved. No need to make a big deal out of it. Everyone needs to follow the work contract. its what you agreed to. The big thing to remember is that a contract only has two parts. Offer and Acceptance.
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