Suit: Answering Calls, Scanning Emails Deserves OT

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In a critical ruling in Allen’s favor last month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier said the plaintiff had demonstrated sufficient merit for the lawsuit to continue. It was initially filed in 2010.

While giving the lawsuit a green light for now, Schenkier said complex questions have yet to be addressed, including whether answering calls or scanning emails can be defined as work.

Up to 200 officers are expected to sign on to the suit, after which their attorneys face the daunting task of sifting through thousands of email and phone records to somehow determine which should qualify for OT, Geiger said.

A spokesman for the city law office, Roderick Drew, said in a brief email that he is limited about what he can say about ongoing litigation. But he added that, “The city has stated as its principal legal argument that there were policies and procedures in place allowing Chicago Police Department members to request overtime compensation. That has not changed.”

After the suit was filed three years ago, then-Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley said asking for overtime pay for cellphone use is “silliness.” He told a news conference at the time, “We’re public servants. If I asked for that, I’d be paid millions of dollars.”

But the law cited by the suit, the Federal Labor Standards Act, does not apply to salaried public officials, Geiger argued Wednesday. He added that the judge’s decision to let the lawsuit proceed underscored its seriousness.

“I doubt they think it is silly now,” he said.

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