Police officers and other law enforcement personnel put their lives on the line to protect North Carolina residents and their families. Despite the risks and long hours that come with the job, some officers are still not fairly paid for all the hours they put in. Read on to learn more about the overtime rule on salary for exempt police and law enforcement employees in North Carolina and how it might affect you.
Who is a law enforcement employee under the FLSA?
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) generally classifies law enforcement officials as non-exempt, meaning they are eligible to receive overtime pay for any extra hours worked. The FLSA defines law enforcement employees as those who:
- Help maintain peace and order
- Have the power to arrest
- Protect life and property
- Have statutory power to enforce the law
- Help prevent and detect crimes
- Have undergone law enforcement training
The FLSA permits law enforcement officers to do work unrelated to their law enforcement duties. However, if these non-exempt duties take up more than 20 percent of the applicable work period, the FLSA will not consider that person to be a law enforcement employee. Phil Gibbons can help you determine whether your work duties classify you as law enforcement personnel or not.
Are any police officials exempt from receiving overtime pay?
Most police and law enforcement employees who are involved with direct police work (e.g., making arrests, crime prevention, conducting investigations) will be non-exempt under the FLSA. However, high-ranking officials, such as lieutenants or captains, may be exempt under one of the FLSA exemptions. In general, to be exempt under the FLSA, you must:
- Be a salaried employee who is paid the same amount every pay period regardless of quantity or quality of work.
- Earn a minimum of $23,600 per year.
- Meet the duties requirements of one of the FLSA exemptions (e.g., administrative, professional).
Law enforcement employees who work for public agencies with fewer than five employees engaged in police activities during the workweek are also exempt from receiving overtime pay under Section 13(b)(20) of the FLSA.
FLSA Overtime Regulations
According to the FLSA, employers must pay their non-exempt employees a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and overtime pay for any hours worked beyond the 40-hour workweek. The amount of overtime received will be equal to one-and-a-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay.
However, law enforcement officials may work longer shifts several days in a row and their schedules may change on a week to week basis. Because of this, the FLSA has a couple of regulations that apply specifically to law enforcement officials (and fire protection). Two of these exceptions include:
According to Section 7(k) of the FLSA, employers of law enforcement personnel may pay their employees overtime on a “work period” basis rather than a workweek basis. Work periods can be a minimum of seven consecutive days or as long as 28 consecutive days.
When an employee works more than 171 hours in a 28-day work period, she will receive overtime pay. For work periods that are between seven and 28 days, the number of hours needed for overtime will be pro-rated. For example, a police officer with a 14-day work period will need to work approximately 86 hours before receiving overtime.
Law enforcement agencies can pay their employees for overtime hours with compensatory time instead of cash. The employer and the employee will have to sign a contract agreeing to this.
What are some common overtime violations for law enforcement personnel?
Law enforcement employees are often the victims of overtime law violations as the job often has long hours. Employers make a number of errors when it comes to paying their employees overtime including:
- Misclassification: Employees who perform law enforcement activities on a regular basis should typically be non-exempt. However, some employers misclassify employees as exempt based on their rank or duty. These things are irrelevant when determining whether they qualify as law enforcement personnel under the FLSA.
- Forcing employees to accept comp time: While offering compensatory time in lieu of cash overtime is legally permissible, the employer and employee must both agree and it must be in writing. Forcing an employee to accept comp time instead of overtime wages without an agreement in place is a violation of the law.
- Off-the-clock work: Employers must account for all hours worked by employees and pay them accordingly. Many police officers do job-related tasks such as filling out paperwork, interviewing witnesses, maintaining police equipment, and assisting with the K-9 unit but their employers fail to count the hours spent on those tasks. Even if the employee does not report these hours, the employer must do so if it knew or should have known the employee was working off the clock.
Phil Gibbons, Charlotte, NC employee rights lawyer, can help police and law enforcement employees recover unpaid overtime.
If you feel that you are not getting the overtime pay you deserve, speak to Phil Gibbons, overtime misclassification attorney at Gibbons Leis, PLLC about filing a claim against your employer for violating the FLSA.
Phil will collect employment records, payroll records, company polices, comp time agreements, and other documentation to show the court that your employer did not pay you properly.
If you can successfully prove that you were misclassified as exempt or that your hours were not accurately recorded, the court will likely award you damages. These damages will cover any overtime pay that you are still owed plus liquidated damages equal to twice the amount of the overtime pay owed.
Your employer may be able to get out of paying liquidated damages if it can prove it acted in good faith. Fortunately, this is difficult to prove.
Many officers are being denied overtime pay for the extra hours they work. This is a violation of federal law and employers should be accountable for it. Stephan Zouars appreciates police officers’ dedication to keeping our communities safe and wants to make sure they receive the pay they deserve. If you are a non-exempt officer of the law who is not receiving overtime pay, we can help you with your claim against your employer.