The city of Roanoke agreed to pay $1.2 million to settle an overtime lawsuit filed on behalf of hundreds of past and present police officers.
Two-thirds of the money, up to $792,000, is earmarked for 341 people who work or worked at or below the rank of sergeant during the past four years. The compensation checks will average $2,322, court papers said.
Compensation for plaintiffs’ attorneys was set at $400,000.
Details appear in a settlement agreement endorsed Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Glen Conrad. The case had been in litigation in Roanoke federal court for about a year with a trial scheduled next month.
Most affected officers worked without compensation as much as one or two hours weekly as a result of “one or more actions and/or practices” of the city, the plaintiffs said in court papers. An example would be an officer, paid by the hour, who stayed a number of minutes after the scheduled end of his or her shift to put away equipment, handle paperwork or have a work-related conversation. The suit accused the city of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act and a similar state law.
The city denied that the officers worked off the clock and continues to deny wrongdoing.
“This wasn’t a situation where the city was denying people their time,” said Timothy Spencer, a senior assistant city attorney.
Spencer said the officers did not request compensation during the usual pay cycle for the work at issue in the case. Instead, they sought pay only through the lawsuit, assisted by a Richmond law firm that has brought similar cases in other Virginia localities, he said. Similar cases have played out in Richmond, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Hampton, court papers said.
The city is making changes that will improve timekeeping and recording of police hours worked, the assistant city attorney said. The city is looking at the possibility of using software akin to an electronic time clock, he said.
“What we’re doing is tightening up some things,” Spencer said.