Sergeant Jeffrey Allen charged in the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago that he had to respond to e-mails and calls about various police investigations over the last three years and that he was not paid for the hours spent doing so beyond his normal work shift.
By not compensating Allen and other police personnel mandated to carry a BlackBerry or other hand-held device, the city and police department violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Allen charged in the suit. Allen asked that the suit be granted class-action status to represent all police employees who likewise have to carry a hand-held device.
Attorney Paul Geiger, one of Allen’s lawyers, told the Chicago Sun-Times that Allen was effectively forced to carry the BlackBerry while an investigator with the police gang unit since Geiger claimed it was deemed a perquisite for the gang unit assignment. The unit detectives had to respond to supervisors’ calls on cases and items such as obtaining search warrants.
“Over a period of years, I am confident there are hundreds of hours,” Geiger told the Sun-Times. “We believe we can prove it’s a requirement for people who want to work in the gang-investigation unit. If you tell them you’re not going to work outside your work hours and don’t want a BlackBerry, you’re not going to work in the unit.”
The lawyer told the newspaper that Allen, a 20-year veteran, won a special commendation for his role in investigating more than a dozen gang murders on the West Side.
“We have reached a point in society where it’s very easy to get a whole lot of unpaid work from employees just by the use of these devices,” Geiger said, according to the Sun-Times. “I want people to get paid for the work they do.”
U.S. District Judge Elaine E. Bucklo has scheduled a September 9 hearing in the case. The city has until September 7 to respond to the suit, according to court records.
The Allen suit is here.