Two police officers in Roanoke, Virginia have filed a proposed class action lawsuit, seeking unpaid overtime wages and arguing that the City of Roanoke tried to dissuade them from pursuing their rightfully-earned pay.
The officers, Maurice Pendleton and Dawn Renee Wright, believe that up to 300 current and former police offers from Roanoke could be able to join them in their allegations. Their lawsuit, filed on Friday, May 11, 2018, claims that Roanoke has violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, a federal law governing overtime wages in America, along with Virginia-specific labor law.
Virginia Police Say City Hid Overtime Violations
In their suit, Pendleton and Wright say they were often encouraged – and sometimes required – to work “off-the-clock” without pay – a clear violation of federal and state law, if true. Off-the-clock hours, the two say, were often filled by finishing paperwork, inspecting firearms, filling up police cruisers at city-owned gas pumps and prepping body cameras, the Roanoke Times writes. This wasn’t an idle mistake, Pendleton and Wright continue.
In the class action, the officers say that Roanoke has actively schemed to underpay police officers for some time now. Officers don’t actually clock in and out to mark their shifts, which would allow the City to maintain accurate hours records for its employees. Instead, the men and women of the Roanoke police force are paid according to their scheduled work hours, the lawsuit claims, rather than for the hours they actually work.
In effect, the officers claim, Roanoke is engaged in the “creation of manifestly false pay stubs” in order to “actively conceal” its illegal behavior.
How Roanoke Police Offers Earn Overtime
Police officers in Roanoke make overtime according to non-traditional guidelines. Instead of being calculated on a weekly basis (as it is for most American workers), officers work on a two-week schedule and become entitled to overtime after having worked 86 hours in that time period, in line with federal law. Virginia State law sets the overtime threshold at 80 hours. The vast majority of US employees, unlike these police officers, become entitled to overtime after working 40 hours in a single workweek.
Overtime pay in the department is strictly-controlled, the Virginia officers write; it’s usually only authorized to follow up on specific cases or when a police officer is asked to come into work on an off-day. That’s fine (and probably for the best, given the numerous police overtime scandals we’ve seen lately), but it’s definitely not okay if officers are being forced to work off-the-clock without compensation.