By John V. Berry, Esq., Berry & Berry, PLLC, berrylegal.com
In a very interesting case, which should remind police departments not to retaliate against police officers and supervisors with respect to overtime issues, a police department was held liable for overtime retaliation. A former patrol officer with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) was awarded a $4,000,000 judgment on November 2, 2010 by a jury after it concluded that the officer’s termination was the result of having testified in an earlier Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) case.
The case, Romney v. LAPD, Case No. 09-cv-03048 (VBF) (Judgment Nov. 2, 2010) was filed first in the Superior Court of California for the County of Los Angeles on April 9, 2009 and then removed by the LAPD to the U.S. District Court for the California Central District because of the federal FLSA claims.
Officer Romney was an 18 year veteran of the LAPD, progressing through the ranks with a good record within the Department. In January of 2008, Officer Romney, by subpoena, was called to testify in another officer’s FLSA overtime case that had been filed earlier, in 2006. Officer Romney provided honest testimony in the FLSA case, as he was required to do, much to the chagrin of supervisors.
In Officer Romney’s statements under oath, he explained the overtime policies of the LAPD and why, pursuant to unwritten rules in the LAPD, that he did not submit overtime slips for overtime that he had worked. No less than a week after he had testified in January of 2008, the LAPD initiated an internal affairs complaint, filed by supervisors, claiming that Officer Romney should be disciplined for insubordination in not submitting overtime slips. This action was taken despite the fact that this was the practice mandated through the department by supervisors.
Following the investigation, two recommending captains recommended that Officer Romney be issued a one-day suspension. However, the LAPD Chief of Police, William Bratton, disregarded the recommendation and ordered Officer Romney’s dismissal. Following the termination, Officer Romney appealed his termination by filing the lawsuit which was eventually heard before U.S. District Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank and a jury.
Jury Holds that the LAPD’s Retaliation was Unlawful
On November 2, 2010, a U.S. District Court jury found in Officer Romney’s favor, ordering a recovery of $3,999,945, liquidated damages and attorney fees. The opinion was issued on November 8, 2010. It is unknown yet whether or not the LAPD will appeal the decision.
For a copy of the original complaint filed in Superior Court, and then removed to U.S. District Court in Central California, click here. Download LAPD FLSA Retaliation Complaint