DENVER, CO – U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch today approved a settlement between 850 Denver police officers and the city over alleged labor law violations, giving each officer roughly 1½ months of paid time off throughout their careers.
“I am pleased the courts found the settlement fair and reasonable for all of the parties involved in this complex lawsuit,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock in a statement.
“This settlement is an important milestone. It reflects our value of collaboration between the Denver Police Department and the plaintiffs involved to resolve differences and focus our efforts on improving morale and restoring public trust.”
The settlement resolves the 5-year-old class action suit brought by officers alleging violations of the Fair Labor and Standards Act.
Officers said, in a nutshell, that they weren’t being adequately compensated over the years. City officials feared litigation could cost Denver hundreds of millions of dollars.
The so-called “donning and doffing” suit initially got notice because one of the eight claims in the suit was that officers should be paid for the time it takes to put on and take off the uniform and safety equipment.
The Denver Police Protection Association later agreed that donning and doffing time was not compensable and that part of the suit was then null.
The settlement resolves other claims, such as the allegation that the city had delayed payment of overtime wages, failed to pay employees for pre-shift and post-shift work, failed to follow federal rules for compensatory time off and did not pay officers for time spent on standby or being on call.
In monetary terms, the settlement is worth about $10 million, including legal fees. Instead of paying out cash, the city will credit each officer with 225 hours of “special compensatory time off” over the rest of his or her career. A schedule has been created for patrol officers.
At the end of an employee’s career with Denver, the city will cash out remaining hours. Officers who have already retired also will be paid cash equal to the time off.
“I’m happy that it’s over,” said Nick Rogers, president of the Police Protection Association. “The main point of this lawsuit was comp time, and the city has fixed that.”
As it stands now, the settlement covers 852 officers who will get 225 hours of special compensatory time off, approximately $8,325 per plaintiff, or $7 million for the entire class.
An additional 500 officers — those who worked for the city before March 19, 2004 — are expected to join the lawsuit as new plaintiffs. Their claims in monetary value would be at least $1.5 million, according to court documents.
The attorney fees are $1.75 million, which will be paid through four annual installments beginning in July.
The City Council still must approve the monetary part of the settlement, which was reached in December at the beginning of the trial that was expected to last throughout the month.
Judge Matsch commended both sides for the creative settlement and said he is grateful that the trial was cut short.
“I can appreciate not having to spend the month of December listening to people say how long it takes to put on their pants,” he said.
From The Denver Post.
Note: LRIS Director Will Aitchison was the attorney for the plaintiffs in this case.