Officers, deputies suing city over overtime

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – More Richmond police officers joining in on a class action lawsuit against the city. Hundreds of officers and deputies are accusing the city of breaking federal and state law for not paying them the overtime, they say, they've earned. And it's not just a problem in Richmond, these lawsuits and threats of suits are popping up across the commonwealth.

In 2005- the General Assembly passed a law that changed the requirements for when police overtime kicks in. Some localities followed it- others downright ignored it. 6 years later- police are forcing the issue in court and cash strapped local governments that have ignored this law could have to come up with millions in back pay.

Nearly half the Richmond police force says the city shorted them on years of overtime. Richmond deputies have the same claim and are going after the city and sheriff. Dozens of Chesterfield deputies have a suit in the works. The threat of legal action hangs over Henrico County; officers there are negotiating with leaders for overtime back pay.

Police filed suit in Loudoun County this month, and Albemarle just agreed to cough up hundreds of thousands in back pay- claiming it misinterpreted the law. So why all the laws suits now?

It's because federal law requires officers and deputies be paid time and a half for every hour worked over 171 hours in a month long pay period.

But in 2005, the General Assembly passed a bill changing the overtime formula. It was sponsored and championed by then Senator- Ken Cuccinelli. He said law enforcement should be paid time and half for anything over 160 hours.

"A lot of jurisdictions I think have seen this difference in 160 and 171 or one 165 and 171 as that's monopoly money," said Harris Butler, attorney for officers and deputies.

Harris Butler is representing the officers and deputies in both lawsuits.

BUTLER: "We can play with those hours as long as we don't go over 171."
RACHEL: "They're kind of ignoring that 160 threshold?"
BUTLER: "They haven't taken it as seriously as they've taken the federal."

Localities like Richmond- with large police forces could end up owing millions in back pay and would have to change their budgets in future years to reflect higher overtime costs. In court documents- Richmond denies breaking any law. 

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