Tuesday, December 18, 2001
Panel Advises County to Pay $645,000 to Settle Sheriff’s Deputies’ Overtime Claim
By NICK YULICO, Staff Writer
Sheriff’s deputies who were required to stay at home for hours at a time while on stand-by SWAT duty should be paid for that time, a county panel decided yesterday.
The county claims board yesterday unanimously recommended that the county Board of Supervisors approve a $645,000 settlement for 51 current and former county SWAT team officers who sought compensation for hours they spent on stand-by or on-call without being paid.
The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiffs were often required to go on-call at the end of their regular work shift, taking home with them “team weapons”—special firearms used in emergency situations.
The weapons were kept in the officers’ cars, which were locked in their home garages. So long as the weapons were kept in their garages, officers were required not to leave their residences.
The officers were compensated for the hours worked only if they were called into duty. So long as they remained in the house, they weren’t paid.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers must compensate employees for time spent on-call under certain circumstances. But the law does not provide a clear dividing line between compensational and non-compensational on-call time, according to a memorandum from the claims board counsel.
Assistant County Counsel David B. Kelsey approved the settlement, saying in the statement, that the county’s potential exposure to liability was considerable and that the case would certainly be appealed if lost by the plaintiffs, due to the ambiguous FLSA code.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has since revamped the policy, allowing officers to leave their homes if the weapons are locked in cars in their garages as long as they can respond to a call in a reasonable amount of time.
The settlement must now go before the Board of Supervisors for final approval.
The Claims Board, which has the authority to settle lawsuits under $100,000, also approved several other settlements yesterday.
The panel awarded over $190,000 total for three people who allegedly suffered personal or property damages as a result of car crashes caused by county employees.
It also approved a settlement of $60,000 for Lexington Technology, which claimed that the Sheriff’s Department breached a contract for computer hardware and software.
A settlement of $63,500 was awarded to a woman who claimed she tripped and injured herself at a polling place in Torrance due to the errant placement of a rug by poll workers.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company