Recent ruling exempts the Chicago Police from Off-duty Pays
In Allen v. City of Chicago, Case No. 10 C 3183, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 165906, the Federal Judge ruled that the federal law did not entitle the Chicago police officers to be paid overtime for the off-duty work done through mobile devices issued by the Chicago Police Department (CPD).
Jeffrey Allen, a sergeant in the CPD, filed an action on May 24, 2010, against the City of Chicago on behalf of himself and a punitive class of employees of the CPD's Bureau of Organized Crime (BOC). On October 5, 2010, they amended his complaint and alleged that the City willfully violated the Fair Labor Standard Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., (FLSA) by failing to pay plaintiffs all compensation due, specifically overtime compensation due for working in excess of 171 hours during a 28-day work period.
He further stated that CPD required them to use BlackBerry devices to be available to access work-related emails, phone calls and messages while they were off duty, and that they in fact received many such communications and performed work accordingly. Plaintiffs allege that they were not compensated for the work involved in receiving and following up on these communications, because CPD maintained an unwritten policy to deny plaintiffs’ compensation for off-duty work they performed on their CPD-issued BlackBerry devices. The U.S. District Court’s judge for the Northern District of Illinois, however, sided with the city of Chicago, maintaining that the CPD did not violate the FLSA.
Although smart phones have certainly made work easier across the board, their usage blurs the lines between work life and personal life. This issue has been slowly bleeding into the legal system in terms of employees seeking compensation for usage of their devices outside work.
Judgments from various district courts have been based on the question as to how much of the work employees and employers knew was being performed after hours and off the clock, and whether they believed it was required by employers. While the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the employer on the employee's commute time claims, but vacated the grant of summary judgment for the employer on the employee's off-the-clock claims and remanded the case for further proceedings (Kuebel v. Black and Decker Inc., 643 F.3d 352 (2011)), the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division declined to determine that West's overtime compensation, if there were any, be limited to half-time, rather than time and one-half (West v. Verizon Servs. Corp., 22 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. D 577 (2011)).
In Allen’s case, plaintiff failed to convince that all of the off-duty activities plaintiffs performed on their BlackBerry were a necessary part of their jobs, as the mere act of plaintiffs monitoring their BlackBerry does not constitute an activity pursued necessarily and primarily for the benefit of the City under the FLSA, so long as the plaintiffs still spend their off-duty time primarily for their own benefit without persistent interruptions.