The verdict for a police officer who claimed he was retaliated against by the Los Angeles Police Department after testifying in a wage and hour lawsuit for a fellow officer has been upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court.
The officer had testified under subpoena that it was an unwritten policy in the department to work through lunch but not claim this time as overtime. The LAPD proceeded to file internal investigation complaints against him and another officer who provided similar testimony for their co-worker. The complaint against them alleged that their failure to submit their overtime request was insubordinate.
In the midst of the disciplinary review board hearing, the officer resigned but was subsequently found guilty of insubordination and fired anyway. As a result of this, the now former officer sued the LAPD for retaliation. The Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibits retaliation as a result of testifying for yourself or another person. After the jury found in favor of the officer and awarded damages and attorney fees, the LAPD appealed.
The Ninth Circuit Court upheld the verdict for the police officer. The LAPD argued that the officer was fired for the content of his testimony (that he, along with others, didn’t properly submit his overtime) not because he testified in the FLSA case. But since only officers who testified were fired, and not all the officers who engaged in the practice of working through lunch, the court rejected the LAPD’s argument.
In addition, the officer never argued that he couldn’t be fired for failing to submit his overtime properly or even that the testimony he gave could not be used in a subsequent investigation. He argued, and the LAPD admitted during the trial, that the only reason he had been investigated was because he testified at the trial. This type of retaliation is precisely what is prohibited by the FLSA. Since the subsequent investigation by the LAPD into the overtime issue only focused on those that testified, the court found that the officer’s termination was clearly in retaliation for his testimony.
More information on this case can be found here.
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photo credit: Steve Snodgrass via Flickr cc