For nearly six years, the county's K-9 officers have fed, trained and cared for their dogs in their own homes. Now, 11 of them have sued the county in U.S. District Court in Baltimore for back overtime pay.
The suit, filed yesterday, charges that the county has violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act by "intentionally failing and refusing to pay" the officers for the work at home.
Michael T. Leibig, who represents the officers, said each one could get about $1,000 to $2,000 in back pay, depending on whether the officer kept a patrol dog or a drug-sniffing dog.
"The ones with the patrol dogs tend to get more time," he said.
Under a 1985 U.S. Department of Labor ruling, officers who care for city- or county-owned dogs at their homes must be compensated for the time they spend taking care of the dogs.
"That could be anything from 20 minutes to an hour a day, which doesn't sound like much, but that could add up toa couple hours a week and that's a significant difference in pay," Leibig said.
He said the officers complained about six months ago to the Labor Department, and have been negotiating with the county since then without resolving the issue. He filed the suit to save the officers' ability to get back pay, Leibig explained.
Under federal law, the officers can receive up to two years' back pay. But those twoyears are measured from the day the suit is filed.
"It isn't out of a sense of combativeness," Leibig said. "We just want to preserve the officers' right to money. We're willing to sit down and work it out, but if we work on it a year without it being resolved, that's another year they can't get paid for."
Catherine Durkan, an assistantcounty attorney, confirmed that she had been negotiating with the officers, but assumed that when they got a lawyer they were planning tosue.
She said she expects to meet with Leibig later this week, but declined to comment on the suit, saying she hadn't seen it.
Leibig has represented officers in Alexandria, Va., and Frederick County in similar suits, which resulted in settlements.
He has not asked for a specific amount of money in the Anne Arundel suit, but wants the county to determine the amount of overtime each officer is due and pay that.