Union Can Bind Canine Officers On Amount Of Off-Duty Dog Care

Jeffrey Roemer was a police officer with the City of Dayton, Ohio. Roemer served in the Dayton Police Department’s canine unit. He filed a sweeping lawsuit against the City alleging varying degrees of harassment, including psychological intimidation, theft of personal property from his home, and compensation for his off-duty dog care activities under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

A federal court rejected Roemer’s FLSA claim. While the Court agreed that Roemer’s off-duty dog care activities were compensable work under the FLSA, it cited a regulation from the Department of Labor that “because of the difficulty in determining the exact hours worked in circumstances where unsupervised employees can divide their time between work and personal pursuits, any reasonable agreement of the parties which takes into account all of the pertinent facts will be accepted.”

In the Court’s view, such a “reasonable agreement” had been reached between the City of Dayton and Roemer’s labor organization. The controlling collective bargaining agreement provides eight hours of compensatory time off per month for canine officers.

The Court held that Roemer was required to prove that the agreement “provided an unreasonably short amount of time to perform the assigned tasks that constitute FLSA work and that there was an unreasonably small amount of non-monetary benefits to compensate for any time deficiency. The presence of a provision in a collective bargaining agreement such as the one at issue here is highly useful in determining how to measure an employee’s off-duty work that should be compensated pursuant to the FLSA because it demonstrates a mutual decision on reasonableness reached by the parties. Roemer does not challenge the reasonableness of the agreement.”

Roemer v. City of Dayton, 2007 WL 1956274 (S.D. Ohio 2007).

This article appears in the September 2007 issue