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LAPD Officer Fired over California Overtime Testimony Awarded Nearly $4 Million

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Los Angeles, CAOvertime pay laws are often governed not only by regulation, but also by department and corporate policy by way of written guidelines. However, in a recent case in California, it was alleged that overtime pay was also influenced by certain "unwritten" policies. Referencing the alleged unwritten policy cost a California police officer his job.

A former rank-and-file patrol officer with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), Richard Romney was awarded nearly $4 million on November 2nd after a jury concluded that his dismissal from the force for testifying against the department in a separate lawsuit was unjust.

The Associated Press (AP) and the Los Angeles Times reported on November 3rd that Romney testified in a federal lawsuit brought by another police officer in 2008 with regard to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and California overtime issues. In his testimony, Romney suggested that he rarely took his allotted 45-minute lunch break due to the need to field constant patrol calls. He also testified, according to AP and the Los Angeles Times, that he did not claim overtime pay due to certain unwritten rules governing the department.

The alleged unwritten policy to which Romney referred, held that any overtime under an hour in length would not be granted. "Your captain would refuse to approve requests for under an hour," Romney said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "And you'd be ostracized and looked at as not being a team player."

Following Romney's testimony, the LAPD conducted an investigation, after which then-chief William Bratton recommended to a disciplinary panel that Romney be dismissed. The panel agreed and the 18-year veteran was let go.

It should be noted that the LAPD has been besieged with internal complaints from its own officers with regard to alleged FLSA violations, according to the Los Angeles Times report. LAPD Commander Stuart Maislin told the newspaper that a number of lawsuits have been filed in recent years by officers alleging violations of federal laws and California overtime. Maislin said that as many as 2,500 officers have joined one of the lawsuits.

For his part, then-chief Bratton attempted to drive the point home to his recruits on the overtime issue. The Times reported that Bratton, in 2005, sent a memo and video message to all officers clarifying the LAPD's overtime policy, and ordering an end to any unofficial practices which made officers feel they were not entitled. Maislin told the newspaper, "At that time, it was decided that we would begin to strictly enforce the department's policies," with regard to California overtime.

Romney's testimony three years later proved troubling to the department in light of the 2005 clarification and position on overtime policy. As a training officer with the force, Romney counseled probationary officers and allegedly continued to refer to an "'unwritten policy"' with regard to overtime.

Following Romney's testimony, investigators called for a one-day suspension for the officer. However, Bratton recommended his outright dismissal from the force.

Romney fought his firing in court and the jury found for the plaintiff.

It is not known if the LAPD will appeal the nearly $4 million verdict.

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