|On donning and doffing|
|Written by Mark Nichols|
American Police Beat, February 2008
In a massive ruling for the nation's law enforcement officers, a court in San Francisco has ruled that a police uniform is not just a set of clothes, but an emblem of authority that conveys "special powers and deference in our society." And that means the officer should be paid for the time needed to put it on and take it off, according to U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel.
Judge Patel ruled in favor of policein San Leandro, California who sued for about a half-hour per day of paid "donning and doffing" time, either as part of their shifts or as premium pay. The ruling "ensures that officers get a fair day's pay for a fair day's work," Alison Berry Wilkinson, a lawyer for the officers, told Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Kathy Mount, attorney for the city of San Leandro, said Patel left room for the city to argue that the process takes so little time that it shouldn't be compensated. Mount said the city would argue that putting on and taking off uniforms and mandatory protective gear takes only ten minutes. San Leandro officers have estimated that they need 25 to 35 minutes a day to get their gear on and off.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer ruled last August in a similar case that police in Richmond, California did not have to be paid for time spent putting on and removing their uniforms, but that they might be entitled to compensation for time needed to attach safety equipment such as guns, holsters, handcuffs and helmets.
Breyer said police must be paid if they have to put on that equipment at the station. Putting on and taking off a uniform is not "integral and indispensable" to police work, the standard established by the Supreme Court in compensation cases, Breyer said.
But in her recent ruling in the San Leandro case, Patel said she disagreed with Breyer. A police uniform, along with safety gear, makes up an officer's survival suit, she said. It deters crime by letting everyone know the officer holds a law enforcement job, and it includes the equipment needed to catch criminals like badges, guns, night sticks and helmets, she said.
In making her decision, Patel cited past rulings that require employers to pay workers for the time they need to put on protective clothing in a battery plant and a silicon chip factory.
The suit was filed by Greg Lemmon, president of the San Leandro Police Officers Association, on behalf of the 54 patrol officers in the department. Attorney Wilkinson said all police departments specify the type of uniform officers must wear and the equipment they need to carry, but very few pay for their time.
Wilkinson said that Berkeley sets aside 20 minutes of each shift for uniform-related compensation and that the California Highway Patrol pays uniformed officers a 3.5 percent premium.
written by Darrell, September 06, 2008