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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • City agrees to settle police pay lawsuit

  • The McPherson City Commission agreed Monday to pay three former police officers $38,019 in back pay and other fees to settle a labor dispute.
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  • The McPherson City Commission agreed Monday to pay three former police officers $38,019 in back pay and other fees to settle a labor dispute.
    Plaintiffs Matthew B. Michaels and Lark Stutts (former officer  Patrick W. Petersen joined the lawsuit) alleged the city violated the Fair Labor Standards Act through its “hot seat” program. This program involved officers being picked up for work about five minutes prior to the start of their shifts. It was a long-standing program that was popular among officers because it allowed many to be one-car families.
    However, if a call came in when the officers were on the way to the station, they had to respond.
    The city terminated the hot seat program in light of the lawsuit.
    The commission agreed Monday to pay the three officers in the lawsuit for two years worth of back wages for the five minutes covered under the hot seat program. Two years covers the statute of limitations in this case.
    The city denies its policy was a willful violation of the law. However, it has agreed to pay 25 percent as a nuisance settlement to avoid further costly litigation.
    The city also will pay attorneys fees in the case, which amount to about $28,336 of the $38,000 settlement.
    Although the lawsuit was a collective action, which is similar to a class action, none of the current police officers agreed to join the lawsuit.
    McPherson Police Chief Rob McClarty requested the commission approve payment to current police officers who would have been eligible to join the lawsuit. Their payment will be equal to what is being paid to the lawsuit plaintiffs.
    The total cost to city to pay current officers will be $65,000.
    “I appreciate the professionalism and morale of the department while this case was pending, and I am glad that we can move forward now,” McClarty said in a prepared statement to the commission.
    The commission unanimously approved the payment to the current officers as well.
    Last fall the city came to a settlement with the same officers in another part of the lawsuit. The officers alleged they were owed back pay for ten-minute briefing periods before the start of their shifts.
    The city settled that lawsuit and changed its scheduling practices to ensure that all briefings took place during paid shifts. All current officers who would have been affected by the lawsuit also were paid back wages for the briefings.
    The briefings and hot seat program were legal when they were implemented, which was prior to 1972. However, the law was changed in the mid-1980s, but the McPherson programs were never adjusted to reflect the Fair Labor Standards Act.
    The settlement is also subject to approval by the federal court.

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