After a seven year battle, the City of Boston has finally paid Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association (BPPA) members damages relating to the unlawful unilateral implementation of a 28 day/ 171 hour Fair Labor Standards Act pay period in 2002. In total, 1765 officers received $1,781,091.11 in damages plus $449,628.44 in statutory interest, for a total damages payment of $2,230,719.55. Because the BPPA refused to bow to the City’s change in 2002, BPPA members are the only BPD sworn personnel benefitting from the shorter pay period.
This case had its origins in the 2000 lawsuit brought by over 800 patrolmen (represented by Sandulli Grace attorneys Bryan Decker and John Becker and with the support of the BPPA) alleging violations of the FLSA due to the City’s failure to include Quinn Bill and night shift differential in the calculation of FLSA overtime. In fact, it turned out that the City wasn’t even calculating FLSA overtime, and in 2004, the officers were awarded over $750,000 in damages and attorney fees. Attempting to cut its losses, in spring 2002 the City announced that it wanted to implement a longer FLSA pay period. A longer pay period allows the employer to stretch its overtime liability, resulting in lower payments to officers. Because the issue implicated officers’ pay, the BPPA demanded to bargain. The City refused, and unilaterally implemented the change at the start of July, 2002.
The BPPA challenged that unilateral change by filing an unfair labor practice charge with the Massachusetts Labor Relations Commission. The City contended that it did not need to bargain the change with the union, and the BPPA was the only union to challenge the change. Sandulli Grace attorneys Bryan Decker and Patrick Bryant represented the union before the LRC, which ruled in the union’s favor in 2006, finding that the decision to change the FLSA pay period was a mandatory subject of bargaining, and ordered the City to restore the traditional 7 day/40 hour pay period. Rather than comply, the City appealed the case, and the state’s Supreme Judicial Court took the appeal. Bryan Decker argued the case before the high court, and in 2009 the Court upheld the finding in the Union’s favor.
Following the SJC decision, the City finally agreed to implement the 7day / 40 hour work period. BPPA members have been receiving FLSA overtime on a weekly basis since late last summer. The City then undertook to calculate damages for the period from 2002 until 2009, which resulted in the $2.23 million dollar payout this summer.
(A longer, more detailed report on this case appears in this month’s Pax Centurion, the BPPA’s Official Newspaper).