Police officers in the Chicago PD's Bureau of Organized Crime filed a class action case against the department alleging unpaid overtime for checking emails, sending and receiving text messages and calls during off-duty time. The case, Allen v. City of Chicago, involves a class of 52 officers that were seeking unpaid overtime. Unfortunately for the officers, the district court ruled in favor of the department after a bench trial to a magistrate judge.
Making matters worse for the officers, on appeal to the Seventh Circuit, a three judge panel affirmed the lower courts findings, and refused to disturb the judgment. The appellate court found that the officers failed to establish their case, and that the lower court did not err in reaching their decision that department did not prevent the officers from claiming the unpaid overtime.
Facts of the Case
The officers bringing this case alleged that the department erected barriers to them being paid overtime. However, the court found that the officers simply failed to report their overtime, rather than the department affirmatively refusing to pay for overtime.
The officers are required to submit time sheets that allow them to note the overtime, or off-duty work. Despite being able to report the hours, the officers did not. The appellate court, upholding the lower court's decision, explained that there is a long line of precedent denying unpaid overtime claims when employees fail to report their overtime when mechanisms to do so are available.
Further, the court refused to impute constructive knowledge to the officers' supervisors that many were working overtime and not being paid. In addition to finding that management was unaware that officers were not being paid for overtime, or off-duty work, the court also found that plaintiffs failed to establish an unwritten policy of refusing overtime.
Error Free Judgment
Unfortunately for the officers, the Seventh Circuit did not find any judicial errors upon which to reverse the decision. And though the appellate court considered new arguments from the plaintiffs that were not made to the trial court, these were not convincing enough to disturb the decision.