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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Cleveland Cops Cheated Out Of Comp Time? Federal Trial Now Set For April 22

CLEVELAND (TDB) -- The lawsuit started in 1999 and has been all the way up to the Supreme Court. Now, U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Gaughan says she'll conduct a non-jury trial starting April 22 to determine if Cleveland has any unmet financial liability to its police officers. The cops contend they were illegally denied requests for compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay. Cleveland -- citing tight budgets -- turned down comp time to avoid paying overtime wages to substitute officers. The subs would have been called in and given assignments to cover the shifts of the officers who were off duty on comp time.

The case involves the Fair Labor Standards Act and pits the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association against the city, which refused to grant the time off starting in the late 1990s. Gaughan issued a decision last month that sets up the trial. The complete text of her ruling is available here, h/t

Gaughan said there is some evidence Cleveland's financial condition between 2004 and 2006 was so bleak it couldn't afford requests for comp time. Federal law allows cities to turn down comp time for cops if it imposes a financial burden that can result in an "undue disruption" of police services. The judge said the city may be able to invoke that exemption:

"Unlike the period of 1997 through 2003, the Court finds that defendants [City of Cleveland] have come forward with sufficient evidence to establish that they may be entitled to invoke the undue disruption exemption. In 2004, the city was forced to enact budgetary cuts of $59 million. Due to the budgetary constraints, the department was force to lay off 250 officers and 91 civilian employees."

The judge said those budgetary cuts and layoffs were significant but the city "failed to present sufficient evidence to obtain summary judgment" -- which means more litigation is necessary.

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