Law enforcement officers are often asked to work long hours, but getting paid for overtime can sometimes be more of a struggle than it should be. Federal law provides legal tools for officers who find themselves fighting to get the overtime pay they have earned.
The Fair Labor Standards Act
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act covers a range of pay issues across the country, including the federal minimum wage and overtime rules. It applies to most working people in the United States, including employees of state and local government agencies. It is enforced through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division or through direct lawsuits filed by employees.
In acknowledgement of the irregularity of law enforcement work, the FLSA has special rules governing how overtime is calculated in the profession. Section 207(k) of the statute provides a formula for determining when time-and-a-half overtime applies. Unlike other employers, which are tied to the standard work week, law enforcement agencies may use a work period that is anywhere from 7 to 28 consecutive days. An employer must pay overtime when an employee’s work exceeds 171 hours within the 28-day period. The rate is prorated if the employer’s work period is shorter than the maximum 28 days. Federal regulations include a detailed chart breaking down the maximum number of hours in work periods of different lengths.
Note that under the FLSA it is lawful for an employer to offer officers an option to take additional leave in lieu of cash for overtime. The time off must accrue at the time-and-a-half rate. Although employers can cap the amount of FLSA time off an employee can accrue, it cannot be subject to a “use it or lose it” rule.
Las Vegas Metro’s overtime rules
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s policy manual is a useful example of how an employer can structure overtime. Section 610 of the manual provides Metro’s overtime rules, which were negotiated with the officers’ union. A normal work week for Metro is 40 hours, with work days between 8 and 12 hours long. In an emergency an officer may be called upon to work outside of the normal shift, in which case the officer will be compensated for at least 4 hours of work, provided the 4-hour period doesn’t run into the normal shift. There are a number of other specific rules. For example:
- Officers are also paid overtime whenever required to work during holidays.
- Officers who are called back to duty with less than 12-hours’ notice are entitled to overtime.
- Officers are entitled to overtime pay during unplanned emergencies.
- Overtime pay earned by officers who are held over beyond their normal shifts is not subject to retirement system contributions.
- Overtime pay can be earned by working special events if approved in advance.
GGRM is here to help Las Vegas law enforcement officers
Sorting through the rules that govern overtime pay can be complex. Hopefully none of our city’s police are working overtime without getting paid for it. If you are concerned that you may be owed overtime that isn’t being paid, the attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez may be able to help. We have proudly served the Las Vegas first responder community for over 45 years. For a free consultation reach out to us today at 702-388-4476 or contact us through our website.