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Fair Labor Standards Act and Police Compensation

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 73 Issue: 6 Dated: June 2004 Pages: 24-32
Michael E. Brooks J.D.
Date Published
June 2004
9 pages
This article explains how the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which requires employers to pay employees extra for working more than 40 hours a week, applies to law enforcement personnel.
On April 19, 2004, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao announced modifications to proposed changes in the FLSA. Among these modifications is language that clearly states that police officers generally are covered by the FLSA. The original proposed changes did not make this direct statement. The FLSA covers all public employees not specifically exempted by the law. Exempted employees are elected officials and their appointed staffs. In a sheriff's department, this includes the sheriff and those policymaking officials directly appointed by the sheriff. One U.S. circuit court of appeals has expanded this exemption to sheriff's deputies. The most significant exemption for law enforcement agencies is the white-collar exemption, which exempts salaried executive, administrative, and professional personnel, as long as their salary is greater than $8,060 per year. Under the current law, an executive or manager generally must spend a majority of work hours directly supervising the activities of other employees in order to be exempt. The Labor Department's proposed change to the definition of an "executive" will exempt an individual who is compensated with a salary in excess of $455 per week; has the primary responsibility of managing the "enterprise" or managing a department or subdivision of the enterprise; customarily or regularly directs the work of at least two or more full-time employees; and has the authority to hire and fire or make suggestions and recommendations as to the hiring, firing, advancement, promotion or any other change of status of other employees. Employees covered under the FLSA must be compensated for overtime at the rate of 1 1/2 times their regular hourly wage. Work-related activities not counted in overtime calculations are time on-call, travel to and from work, time in training, time caring for equipment or animals, and time for meal breaks. Although the FLSA generally defines overtime as hours worked over 40 hours a week, there are special rules for law enforcement employees that permit a certain amount of averaging, given the shift patterns of agencies; for example, an agency may base compensation on a work schedule that encompasses 28 days. Under such an arrangement, the agency is not required to start paying overtime until after the employee works 171 hours during the 28-day period. To ensure that an agency is calculating overtime correctly, interpretations of the FLSA should be sought through the Labor Department's Web site (http://www.dol.gov). 45 notes