William Woodman worked as a police officer with the Hazen, Arkansas Police Department from 1999 to 2008. Woodman was assigned police dog Arko. Woodman kept Arko at his residence when he was not working, and he was responsible for the care and training of Arko, which included feeding Arko twice each day, providing Arko with water, grooming and exercising Arko, and cleaning Arko’s kennel.
Woodman filed suit against the City, contending he was entitled to compensation for his off-duty dog care activities. The City’s primary defense was that Woodman had no Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) claim because he did not document his off-duty work on the City’s time sheets.
A federal court rejected the City’s defense, and set the matter for trial. As the Court reasoned, “the fact that Woodman initially did not seek overtime pay is irrelevant to whether the FLSA entitles him to compensation. The City argues that it was impossible to know either actually or constructively that Woodman was not compensated for his overtime because Woodman failed to disclose such overtime on his time sheets. However, that is not the case. Employees recover unpaid wages for overtime hours that were not recorded on their time sheets if they can prove that the employer knew or should have known about the overtime work through some alternative source. Once an employer knows or has reason to know that an employee is working overtime, it cannot deny compensation even where the employee failed to claim overtime hours. Failing to include off-duty time spent caring for and training an assigned police canine does not preclude the employee from recovering compensation for such work.
“The parties genuinely dispute whether the City had actual or constructive knowledge that Woodman was not compensated for the off-duty time he spent caring for and training his assigned canine. A trial will be necessary to resolve this factual dispute.”
Woodman v. City of Hazen, Arkansas, 2009 WL 2579266 (E.D. Ark. 2009).
This article appears in the November 2009 issue