Comp Time Award Settles FLSA Lawsuit

Denver police officers are poised to receive credit for 225 hours of compensatory time off to settle a 2007 federal lawsuit under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The settlement that translates to just over 28 days of compensatory time to each of 852 current and former officers still awaits final approval from the City Council and a federal judge. Although the case was initially popularized as the “donning and doffing” lawsuit because of a claim related to failure to pay for time spent getting safety equipment on and off, the police officers’ union agreed to dismiss that claim. Other claims involved the failure to pay appropriately for on-call time, standby time, overtime, and other pre-shift and post-shift work. 

The settlement is estimated at $10 million, including $1.75 million in attorney fees. Retired officers will receive cash equal to the compensatory time allotment as will current officers who do not exhaust the allotment before the end of their individual career. Initial estimates of exposure to the City went as high as $200 million.

Compensatory time off, often an attractive alternative to overtime wages for nonexempt employees for both employer and employee, is only permissible under the FLSA for public employers.This settlement may create confusion about the law as it applies to police departments. Public sector employers are advised to carefully consider any changes to current policies and confirm that they are legally appropriate.