A Missouri federal court recently found that while a police chief attempted to better the department through new scheduling orders, his actions violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). As a result, the court awarded liquidated damages to record clerks who were wrongfully classified as “exempt” employees by the police chief.
An employer who violates the FLSA is liable to the employee in the amount of his or her unpaid overtime and “an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.” These damages are intended in part to compensate employees for the delay in payment of wages owed under the FLSA. Liquidated damages are mandatory unless the employer can show good faith and reasonable grounds for believing that it was not in violation of the FLSA.
In this case, the record clerks had access to classified police information, were assigned to a police squad, but were not police officers, and oversaw prisoners on television monitors. They did not have any direct contact with prisoners. Record clerks had no arrest authority and were not licensed as police officers in Missouri. Ultimately, there were held to be “non-exempt” employees.
The court found that the police chief did not solicit either advice or an opinion on whether the new schedule order for record clerks complied with the FLSA. In addition, he never talked to anyone about his decision except fellow members in the police department. The chief performed no other independent research, did no Internet research, did not talk to an attorney, did not talk to anyone in the Missouri Department of Public Safety, did not use any law enforcement resource, and did not research or talk to anyone in the Department of Labor.
Thus, the federal court concluded that the police department failed to meet the subjective standard of good faith because it failed to prove an honest intention to ascertain and follow the FLSA. The federal judge specifically noted that his decision did not detract from the good character of the police chief.