City settles overtime lawsuit with FOP

July 20, 2000|By M. Dion Thompson | M. Dion Thompson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore police sergeants and lieutenants for the first time will be paid overtime or given time off for working extra hours as part of a $2.6 million settlement hammered out with city officials.

The agreement, reached Tuesday, ends a nine-year dispute between the Fraternal Order of Police and the city. About 400 officers will share in the settlement, which will be paid in three installments over the next two years, officials said.

Some of the beneficiaries are former lieutenants and sergeants who retired as the case made its way through the courts. Others now have higher rank but served in those positions during the period covered by the suit.

The suit, filed in 1991, was brought by 287 officers who were sergeants and lieutenants at that time or were retired from those positions. They argued that they were not managers and thus were entitled to overtime pay under federal wage laws. The officers sought overtime payments retroactive to 1989.

The city and the police union carried the case to the Supreme Court. Last year, the high court rebuffed the union by refusing to reopen a constitutional dispute over Congress' power to require overtime pay for state and local government employees. That decision returned the case to the lower courts.

"We settled because in our opinion their argument had some merit," Mayor Martin O'Malley said yesterday.

O'Malley said the case was one of several disputes between the city and police officers that had to be resolved "so that this department can be entirely focused on mission."

His position was markedly different from that of former Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, whose administration fought the suit.

The settlement includes about $200,000 in legal fees incurred by the FOP, said Officer Gary McLhinney, president of the Baltimore police Fraternal Order of Police lodge.

City Solicitor Thurman W. Zollicoffer Jr. said the case had cost the city about $1.5 million in legal fees. He said the first settlement payment will be made later this year, with the other two on July 1, 2001, and July 1, 2002.

About 300 sergeants and 100 lieutenants now serve on the force and will be paid overtime in future.

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