The city of McPherson is facing legal action from a former police officer, alleging unpaid overtime and discrimination.
Former patrol officer Matthew B. Michaels is alleging the city should have compensated him and other officers for 10-minute pre-shift briefings. Michaels is seeking the suit be a collective action and take in all the officers who would have be involved in the briefings. City Attorney Jeffrey Houston said the city has offered Michaels compensation for two years of back briefing pay.
However, the settlement may be on hold pending the outcome of a similar case being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In Genesis HealthCare Corp. v. Symczyk, the court will address attempts to “pick off” a plaintiff in a Fair Labor Standards Art collective action by offering full relief to an individual plaintiff.
McClarty’s news release said the city has changed its policy on the briefings, and they now occur within the officers regular work hours.
Houston said the briefing went back at least 40 years, but the statute of limitations limits the defendants to seeking recourse for only two years — three years if the city is found to have willfully violated the law.
The city intends to compensate the other officers affected, but is waiting to do so until Michaels’ suit is settled, Houston said. The city is waiting to hear from Michaels attorney to see if he will accept the settlement; however, a stay may be issued in the case until the Supreme Court case is decided.
In addition to the wage complaint, Michaels is alleging the city discriminated against him when it terminated him on July 16.
Although the city could not release the reason it fired Michaels, Houston said the firing was for cause.
On Sept. 27, Michaels filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission alleging disability discrimination. The EEOC is the federal agency that handles employment discrimination cases. The city could not comment on the pending litigation, Houston said.
However, a news release from McPherson Police Chief Robert McClarty said the city is committed to ensuring equal opportunities for all its employees and the city does not make employment decisions based on employees’ disabilities.
Firing an employee because a disability is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The news release further stated the city policy prohibits discrimination against employees based on disability.
In Oct. 12, Michaels filed notice under the Kansas Tort Claims Act, alleging defamation, tortuous interference with a prospective business advantage and conspiracy. The tortuous interference claim would indicate Michaels believes the city’s actions would prevent him from doing business in the future. Filing the notice is the first step in taking the city to court on these claims.
Houston said there has not been any discovery in the case, and he has been unable to interview Michaels. Therefore, he is unsure on what Michaels is basing his claims.
Page 2 of 2 - If both the EEOC complaint and tort claims would proceed to court, they likely will be heard together, Houston said. No date has been set for hearings in either action.
The Sentinel attempted to contact Michaels’ attorney, but his law office said its policy was not to comment on its clients’ cases.