Lawsuit Against Chicago Police for Blackberry Overtime

PHOTO: Sgt. Jeffrey Allen with the Chicago Police Department is suing the City of Chicago, saying he is owed overtime pay for what he says was required off-duty Blackberry and phone use.
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Jeffrey Allen, an employee of the Chicago Police department, has received court approval to invite other cops to join his lawsuit against the city, demanding overtime pay for required Blackberry and phone use "off the clock."

Allen joined the Chicago Police Department in 1990 and was issued a Blackberry in 2006.

He first filed this lawsuit in 2010 when he was in a specialized unit.

"When he worked in the Narcotics section of Organized Crime, Allen estimated that he would receive one to two off duty telephone calls per day on the Blackberry," a court document stated.

As a non-exempt employee, Allen said he should have been received overtime pay for what he says was required phone and Blackberry use when he was off-duty, under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

On Wednesday, the U.S. District Court judge for the Northern District of Illinois' Eastern Division gave approval for Allen to send notice to potential lawsuit class members asking for consent if they wish to join the lawsuit.

According to a court document filed by Allen, "police personnel holding the rank of lieutenant and below in the Bureau of Organized Crime are 'similarly situated'."

Allen, now a sergeant with a civil service rank, no longer has a Blackberry, said his attorney, Paul Geiger.

Geiger said that notice will be sent out by Feb. 20 and the officers have until April 8 to decide to join the lawsuit. He said the city will send him a list of possible participants.

Geiger estimates that around 200 people may be in the class, though there are a number of people who have left the unit or retired.

There will be a status hearing to report to the judge after the April 8 deadline.

City officials did not respond to attempts to seek comment on the suit.

"We're asking them to be paid for the work that they have done," Geiger said. "And in the future, we're asking that if the employer wants an employee to work while they're off-duty, that they are going to pay for it. No longer can the Chicago police department get its employees to work for free."

Geiger said it is unclear how many hours Allen worked off-duty.

Allen sometimes received over 1,500 emails a month and conducted long phone conversations, which are easier to quantify, Geiger said.

"He never turned the Blackberry off and would sleep with it on, charging next to his bed," according to a court document. "Allen did this because there was always the potential for an important email, text, or phone call to come through notifying him of something that needed to be taken care of immediately. There were several times when messages would come in when Allen was sleeping, but it was rare."

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