End Of Overtime E-mail
The U.S. Department of Labor is attempting to gut the Fair Labor Standards Act – an action that’s prompted law enforcement organizations across the nation to speak out against the proposed changes. Leaders of the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA)/AFL-CIO have expressed particularly strong opposition to what they consider an effort to turn back the clock on labor laws governing American workers who do not enjoy collective bargaining rights. The furor started after the Department of Labor published several proposed rule changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act under the guise of adding more workers to its provisions.  According to IUPA officials, the new rules, if adopted, would exempt hundreds of thousands of workers currently receiving overtime pay, including as many as 200,000 police officers.

According to Michael Leibig, general counsel for the I.U.P.A., at a time when demands on law enforcement officers are at an all time high, these same officers could lose the right to over $150,000,000 in pay if the FLSA is rewritten by the Bush White House. According to I.U.P.A. Vice President Dennis Slocumb, the proposed rule change would exempt anyone making more than $21,500 and supervising two or more persons from receiving overtime pay, and it would deny overtime pay to nearly every police sergeant in America. The Department of Labor (DOL) has crafted a proposal that any person making $21,500 a year or more and doing work “requiring a high level of skill or training” is considered “administrative” and exempt. The Labor Department has also removed the degree requirements from the “professional” exemption.

Slocumb explained it this way. “Virtually all police officers could be so designated. If this goes through, we estimate that about 200,000 police officers would be exempted from the provisions of FLSA. Our most conservative estimate is that the average police officer exempted would lose at least 20 percent of his or her pay.” In addition to the revision of administrative classification, the proposal would also exempt from FLSA coverage any person making more than $65,000 a year total compensation. The broadening of these exemptions, which has been consistently rejected by the courts in more than 130 cases, would be overturned by these proposed rules.  If the proposal is successful, it will mark the first time in U.S. history that a large group of employees who have enjoyed the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act have had those rights removed without Congressional review.

“This represents the most drastic reduction in protection in 50 years and is being done by fiat of the Department of Labor without Congressional oversight,” noted Sam Cabral, IUPA’s national president.

Both Slocumb and Cabral are former police officers with extensive experience. Both are angry at what they say is the heavy-handed treatment of police officers by the Bush White House, which seems to be in total support of the efforts of the Dept. of Labor to remove the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The I.U.P.A. is warning its more than 100,000 members that the effort to create a large pool of exempted workers in a police department will mean that commanders could assign overtime only to those officers for  whom they don’t have to pay overtime. Management could also refuse to pay compensatory time for hours worked, on the grounds that “exempt” employees are not subject to the limitations of the 40 hour week.

Attorney Leibig, one of the nation’s foremost labor law attorneys, who has tried and won innumerable FLSA cases on behalf of law enforcement officers, said that nearly half of the nation’s police forces would be negatively affected.  According to Leibig, there would be a “ripple” effect where supervisors would deliberately assign overtime to exempt officers to save money on overtime costs by denying pay to officers who depend on overtime to supplement their salaries and better support their families.

Leibig maintains that the volume of overtime coverage is critical, saying, “The damage is done even if just 20 percent are exempt.” Cabral, a former police sergeant from Defiance, Ohio, said, “If this change goes through, there’ll be no incentive for a sergeant to ever take an assignment requiring long or irregular hours. You’ll see all senior personnel taking jobs with predictable hours and working conditions which will drastically reduce the ability of the department to fight crime.”

Slocumb, with more than 30 years experience as a deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, said, “With the billions of dollars appropriated and approved for the enhancement of Homeland Security and the increased demands on our nation’s police officers, it is unconscionable to ask them to do more and more for less and less compensation in a job that is often fraught with danger.”

Both leaders expressed the deep concern that with the budgetary crises in cities and counties, they anticipate that employers who are facing severe financial shortfalls and are lacking any federal financial assistance for first responders would implement these rules immediately.  The effect would be to deny rank and file officers critically needed pay.  The loss of overtime pay would drive many officers to seek other jobs outside of law enforcement and greatly erode the morale of those remaining on the job.

The I.U.P.A. is calling on its members to become thoroughly familiar with the importance of the protections afforded them by current FLSA provisions and in turn educate their elected officials in the House and Senate. They will urge the Congress to review Dept. of Labor plans with an eye to preserve the protections for all workers. Also, while H.R. 1119, the so-called Family Time Flexibility Act, would only apply to private sector workers, the I.U.P.A. is advocating its defeat so those workers can keep their job protections. Slocumb said calling these proposed rule changes the “Family Time Flexibility Act” is a smoke screen to cover an effort to destroy an important part of labor law. 

“What good does family time mean if it comes at the cost of destroying a person’s ability to support their family?” he asked.   “How can it be labeled either ‘family’ or ‘flexible’ when only the employer can dictate when the time earned can be taken off?”   “Whether it is the private sector or public sector, overtime pay often means the difference between eking out a bare existence for a family and truly supporting a family,” Slocumb said.

“It must not be sacrificed for the sake of cutting expenses by refusing to pay a fair amount of money for work done.”

Rich Roberts is the director of public affairs for the International Union of Police Associations.

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