|Officers file FLSA suit|
|Officers file FLSA suit|
|Written by APB Staff|
Like many of their counterparts from other jurisdictions across the county, San Luis Obispo officers are seeking monetary compensation for time spent putting on and taking off safety equipment required by their departments.
In a lawsuit with huge implications, the case of Dale Strobridge v. the City of San Luis Obispo is currently pending in federal court in Los Angeles, with a trial date set for September 4.
The suit alleges that not paying officers overtime for the time they spend putting on and taking off safety equipment is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. In labor law, such cases are known as "donning and doffing" lawsuits and have become commonplace since a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case decided that an employer must pay meatpackers for time spent donning and doffing safety gear.
As a result of that ruling, police officers have filed lawsuits from Hawaii to New York, with high-profile California cases pending against the cities of Oakland and Richmond.
According to the city, San Luis Obispo has spent $11,000 so far on outside legal fees in the case, and the City Council recently allocated another $50,000 to fight the case.
"We believe the plaintiffs' position is unsupported either by the law or the implementing regulations," City Attorney Jonathan Lowell told reporters.
"The city will vigorously defend against this lawsuit."
The suit in San Luis Obispo revolves around an officer that was employed by the San Luis Obispo PD until the end of 2003. The officer, Dale Strobridge remains the president of the San Luis Obispo Police Officers' Association.
He currently works as a sheriff's deputy. Strobridge and 32 additional sworn officers signed on as plaintiffs in the action.
Allison B. Wilkinson is the attorney representing Strobridge and the others. She says if the court decides in their favor, all police officers working for the city would benefit. She also pointed out that the lawsuit is about more than putting on a uniform.
"There is the full complement of safety gear they are required to wear. The bulletproof vest, the handgun, the handcuffs, pepper spray and the like," she told reporters.
Wilkinson went on to say that it takes 15 minutes at the start of the shift and 15 minutes at the end to don and doff the gear.
Peter Brown, the attorney hired by the city to handle its case says the stakes couldn’t be higher
"This is an issue which is not unique to San Luis Obispo. It is an issue which will have an inestimable effect," Brown said of the overtime costs involved.
Brown disputes the idea that it takes anywhere near a half hour for police to put on and take off their vests and belts that carry their handgun and other equipment.
He said he’s asked lots of cops about the time required to “don and doff,” and said he’s heard estimates of one to five minutes.
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