On donning and doffing E-mail
Written by Mark Nichols   

American Police Beat, February 2008

bombsuit.jpgIn 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.


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Comments (2)Add Comment
Equipment compensation
written by Darrell, September 06, 2008
Police are no different from doctors or other professions that require the tools of their trade and to be compensated for the same. I would be very upset to know that a surgeon was going to operate on me and he or she would not put on the required sanitized clothings due to not being paid by their hospital. Police officer give millions of hours of their time in things like PAL coaching to support the department they work for and are never compensated.

If I am required to follow policy that states I must complete reports and turn my duty vehicle in filled with gas and clean after their shift ends and I have been on a call that runs past shift officers should be compensated. Can imagine telling your child you can't make it to their parent teacher conference because you have to stay late at work and not being compensated for the actual work and time you are completing. The labor laws are made for a reason. If officers stay then they should pay with or without a supervisors approval. A easy way to make sure this does not happen is to stop sending calls for service and making policy reflect officers will report to the station one hour prior to shift ending. Well we know that will not happen. ;D
Police Sergeant
written by Darin Bayles, October 09, 2008
I am appalled at the amount of complaining that officers do across the country and within my own department. The last time I checked each and every one of us, signed up to do this job and knew that you were required to put on a uniform in most cases to do it. I believe there is a substantial portion of the LE community that has moved to an entitlement position and I think it is detrimental to our profession. If you don't want to do the work, then find another job. Most of us are compensated well for the job that we do. Who really joins LE for the money? No one. I'll bet you didn't complain about this issue when you were hired. I am sure you were happy to have the job you always wanted. If you didn't then find another line of work. Your career is about pride!

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