Florida Sheriff Deputies Not Due Pay for Dressing, Commuting (1)

From labor disputes cases to labor and employment publications, for your research, you’ll find solutions on Bloomberg Law®. Protect your clients by developing strategies based on Litigation...

By Patrick Dorrian

Two Florida counties didn’t violate federal or state wage laws by not paying sheriff deputies for time spent putting on their police gear at home and driving to and from work in their patrol cars.

The deputies’ "donning and doffing” of their protective gear wasn’t “integral” to their principal law enforcement duties, and their listening to their police radios and keeping an eye out for traffic law violations while commuting wasn’t “indispensable” to those duties, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit said. The June 27 decision reaffirms U.S. Supreme Court and circuit precedent holding that pre- and post-shift activities must be both integral and indispensable to be compensable under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Florida wage law is interpreted consistently with the FLSA, the court said.

The holding that the Florida Minimum Wage Act is interpreted in the same way as the FLSA “brings a lot of clarity for employers, at least in Florida,” attorney Nicolette L. Bidarian told Bloomberg Law June 27. Bidarian is a senior associate with Allen Norton & Blue P.A. in Tampa, Fla., which represented Collier County and Lee County in the case.

The Eleventh Circuit panel split 2-1 on the deputies’ claims that they should have received a minimum wage under state law and overtime pay under federal law for their time commuting. The general rule is that the time a worker spends driving to and from work isn’t compensable, and the Federal and Sixth circuits have similarly held that a law enforcement officer’s monitoring a police radio or observing the roads for emergencies while en route to work don’t qualify as exceptions to that general rule, the majority said.

The court unanimously found that the time sheriff deputies spent getting dressed for duty wasn’t compensable. U.S. Department of Labor regulations and a related memorandum issued by the DOL indicate that the long-established rule is that donning and doffing gear while at home “has never been considered work time,” the court said.

“We are pleased with the court’s ruling,” Capt. Robert Gizzi of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said in a June 27 statement. “It vindicates the Sheriff’s Office’s policies and practices and confirms once again this agency fully complies with all statutes and law.”

Counsel for the deputies didn’t respond June 27 to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment.

Judge R. Lanier Anderson III wrote the majority opinion, which was joined by Jill A. Pryor . Judge Frank M. Hull dissented from the majority opinion on the commuting time issue.

Benjamin H. Yormak of Yormak Employment & Disability Law in Bonita Springs, Fla., represented the deputies. David J. Stefany and Matthew D. Stefany of Allen Norton & Blue also represented the counties.

The case is Llorca v. Collier Cty. Sheriff, 2018 BL 228197, 11th Cir., No. 17-10616, 6/27/18.

Request Labor & Employment on Bloomberg Law