Detectives Not Justified In Relying On Representations Of Assistant Chiefs As To Wages

A group of detectives working for the Cedar Rapids Police Department filed a lawsuit against the Department’s former Police Chief and two assistant chiefs. The heart of the lawsuit was that the three chiefs promised the Detectives that if they left the collective bargaining unit which encompassed both sergeants and detectives, their pay would be brought within five or ten cents of the hourly wage earned by sergeants. The Detectives petitioned and ultimately withdrew from their bargaining unit in 1995.

When the promised pay increases were not forthcoming, the Detectives brought a lawsuit. A jury found that the assistant chiefs had in fact promised the pay increases if the Detectives left the bargaining unit, but awarded no damages. Both the Chiefs and the Detectives appealed.

The Iowa Court of Appeals rejected the Detectives’ lawsuit. The Court found that the lawsuit could only be valid if the Detectives “reasonably relied” on the representations of the Chiefs. The Court cited the fact that the Detectives were long-time employees of the Department with significant experience, and knew that the only entity within the City with the authority to increase their hourly wage was the City Council. In the eyes of the Court, the Detectives’ reliance on the statements made by the Chiefs was not “reasonable” in light of the Council’s ultimate authority over the matter of pay increases. For this reason, the Court dismissed the Detectives’ lawsuit.

Rosdail v. Byrne, 2006 WL 1896256 (IowaApp. 2006).

This article appears in the September 2006 issue