|Wednesday, June 16, 2004
City police officers to get back pay, overtime
|Radford City Council also classifies police as salaried employees, noting they could work up to 171 hours every 28 days before qualifying for overtime pay. Police pay dispute settled Radford to compensate officers for lost overtime and compensatory pay.
By Paul Dellinger
RADFORD - Radford city officials have agreed to provide a total of $140,833 to about 40 police officers in back pay, overtime and compensatory time that had been the subjects of a federal lawsuit.
Radford City Council also passed a resolution Monday night classifying city police as salaried, rather than hourly, employees and noted they could work up to 171 hours every 28 days before qualifying for overtime pay.
A contingent of city officers was in the audience and, after the council emerged from a closed session and passed the resolution without discussing it, most got up and stalked silently out of the meeting.
They had opposed the resolution which they saw as continuing the procedure to which the 21 officers in the lawsuit had objected, working 42.5 hours a week and being paid only for 40.
Because most left the meeting at that point, they missed the next council action approving the compensation from the lawsuit. Their abrupt departure offended Councilman Bill Yerrick, who thought over his vote briefly before joining in the unanimous decision approving the package.
Jonathan Rogers, the Roanoke attorney who represented the 21 officers in the lawsuit, conferred after the meeting with City Manager Tony Cox. Cox said police pay would be based on a Feb. 3 memo, which includes the provision for compensating officers for all hours worked instead of a flat 160 salaried hours.
Rogers told some of the officers who had missed all that but were still waiting outside the municipal building after the meeting, of his conversation with Cox but added they should examine their next paychecks.
"The proof is in the pudding," he said. "You'll just have to see on that ... You're a good force. No matter what, you're not paid enough."
Other officers who had already left still believed late Tuesday their pay was going to come up short. Rogers confirmed Tuesday his understanding that police would be paid for each hour worked.
Rogers told a reporter during the closed part of the meeting that based on populations and numbers of officers, Radford shows a much higher arrest record per officer than surrounding jurisdictions. He said that survey indicated that the Radford officers work harder.
The back pay was part of a settlement to which the 21 officers agreed when they dropped the suit.
Rogers had predicted during the closed session that passage of the resolution would result in the city losing officers to other jurisdictions. But after all the council actions and his chat with Cox, he said it appeared the differences have been worked out.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act allows officers to work up to 171 hours every 28 days without being paid overtime, but does require payment of normal hourly wages for all hours worked. In the suit, officers said they had at least 171 hours on their timecards but were only paid for 160 hours during a 42.5-hour work week. They also said they were called in on days off and vacations and not paid for those hours.
The result, Rogers said, is that officers were either being paid 6.68 percent less than they should be getting for hours worked or the officers were working 2 1/2 hours per week for free.
1st Sgt. Kenny Ford, who did not leave the council meeting after the resolution action, told council members that officers were not blaming them or the city manager for the pay dispute. He said they blame former chief Wes Terry, who made the decision to pay for only 160 hours per cycle instead of actual hours put in. "That's all we're wanting, just to be paid for when we work," he said.
Rogers also said he believed Terry's pay policy was at the heart of the problem. Terry was fired Jan. 13 by Cox. Cmdr. Gary Harmon has been interim chief since then.