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Subject: IUPA Overtime Victory

The Sixth Circuit recently issued a major decision regarding the use of
compensatory time.  This victory arose from one of former IUPA General
Counsel Mike Leibig's last FLSA cases prior to his passing, and is a legacy
to his vigorous battle to improve the pay of police officers. 

In Beck v. Cleveland, 390 F.3d 912 (6th Cir. 2004), the Sixth Circuit ruled
that the City could not deny a compensatory time request solely because the
request would cause the City to spend money on overtime to fill the slot.

In Beck, the City used a common tactic in scheduling compensatory time:
the City would refuse an officer's request for compensatory time if the
request would reduce the staffing below minimum staffing levels, even if the
City could have called in a replacement officer using overtime.  The City
argued that it could refuse comp time requests because the use of overtime
would "unduly disrupt" the police department.

In ruling against the City, the Court emphatically affirmed the right of
police officers to use compensatory time:  "The Police Officers'
compensatory leave requests must be granted absent 'clear and affirmative
evidence' of an undue disruption of the City's provision of police services
for its citizens."

The Court rejected the City's argument that the financial burden of overtime
would "unduly disrupt the operation" of the police department.
Instead, the Court "conclude[d] that [the] 'unduly disruptive'
limitation was intended to apply to actual governmental operations, not the
fiscal impact of compensatory leave."  Thus, the City must prove that "the
effects of the compensatory leave requests upon actual police operations"
are unduly disruptive.

In reaching this conclusion, the Court relied on the three Supreme Court
cases litigated by IUPA.  In particular, the Beck Court cited Christensen to
support its reliance on Department of Labor regulations and opinions. One
such opinion states that "The fact that overtime may be required of one
employee to permit another employee to use compensatory time off would not
be a sufficient reason for an employer to claim that the compensatory time
off request is unduly disruptive."

The Court did note that there may be financial impacts of compensatory time
use that would be "unduly disruptive."  However, "to rely upon the financial
impact of paying overtime to substitute officers to justify denial of
compensatory leave under Section 207(o)(5), the public employer must present
clear proof of disruption of services."  Normally this would require the use
of expert testimony that the financial impacts would unduly disrupt police
services, not just the police
department budget.  

This case should greatly strengthen officers right to use compensatory time,
and should reduce the ability of police departments to use overtime as an
excuse to deny comp time requests except in a true financial crisis.

Since these are case summaries, and case law varies from jurisdiction to
jurisdiction, please consult with your local attorney before relying on
these summaries.

Dennis Slocumb
1421 Prince Street, Suite 400
Alexandria, Virginia 22314