Dogs and OT Legal Update
K-9 Officers, are you getting paid what you should? In certain respects we all bring our jobs home with us in one way or another. When it comes to K-9 Officers however, the job really comes home with them. In the vast majority of departments, the dog stays with the officer all the time, on duty and off. This allows for a tight bond between the handler and the dog. It also relieves the department of the burden of housing the dog, feeding it and walking it as well.
Unlike a take home police car, a dog needs attending to after you get home. Certain breeds need walking and feeding at very specific times in order to avoid injury. That means the handler’s time is not his own even while off duty. The officer must be paid for this additional work time.
The courts and the department of labor have addressed this. The K-9 Officer should be paid overtime for this extra work. The standard is that payment should be at time and a half of the officer’s hourly wage. Many departments have a set stipend amount for K-9 officers. This is meant to be compensation for the extra work. Often these stipends do not meet the test however. The stipend, when divided by hours actually spent in care of the dog must not be below minimum wage.
“According to the Department of Labor, bathing, brushing, exercising, feeding, grooming, cleaning of the dog’s kennel or transport vehicle, administering medicine for illness, transporting the dog to and from an animal hospital or veterinarian, and training the dog at home are all compensable activities.” PoliceOne.com K-9 Care and Handler Compensation. http://www.policeone.com/police-products/k9/articles/1747767-K-9-care-and-handler-compensation
So how much K-9 time is compensable? Each officer’s experience is different but the leading cases give us some guidance. Levering v. District of Columbia sets the standard at 30 minutes per day, seven days a week. This would work out to 3.5 extra hours of compensable time per week. If the officer is working a full schedule, most or all of that would be overtime.
3.5 hours a week might seem a bit light however given what K-9 handlers actually have to do. Some breeds require feeding at specific times prior to and after their shifts. What about the officer’s days off? The dog still has to get walked, fed, and brought to the vet. A more reasonable standard is that which has been suggested in several out of court settlements is one hour per day for work days and one and a half hours for off days.
The fact is that the department is saving a tremendous amount of money with take home dogs. The department does not have to provide the kennel facilities and pay extra personnel to attend to the dogs.
So check your contract, check your paycheck. Make sure you are getting paid for all the work you do. Call us if you need help.
If you need further information, please contact the General Counsel’s Office and we will help you out.