K-9 officer sues Lynwood for denying OT for time spent off-duty taking care of police dog

By Dan Churney | Jul 20, 2015

A suburban police chief allegedly told a K-9 officer he was barking up the wrong tree, so the officer went to federal court, claiming his department violated federal law in denying him pay for off-duty time spent caring for a police dog.

Brandin Fredericksen joined the Lynwood Police Department in 2005, receiving pay of $32 per hour for straight time and $48 per hour for overtime. Fredericksen became a dog handler for the department May 1, 2012. As a K-9 officer, Fredericksen was in charge of Aik, a dog owned by the department and trained for police work. Fredericksen said he spent his work shift with Aik and was required to take the animal home with him every day to care for the animal and ensure bonding.

As the animal’s handler, Fredericksen, in a complaint filed in Chicago’s federal court on July 17, said he had to spend about 80 off-duty hours per month feeding, watering, grooming, bathing, exercising, transporting, training and cleaning up after the dog. Fredericksen said he also had to spend two hours when he took the dog to a veterinarian for checkups. Fredericksen added he continued to furnish this care when he was on sick leave, vacation or otherwise not at work.

As examples of the time he spent caring for the dog, Fredericksen said he spent one hour per week brushing Aik, two hours per day soaking the dog’s food to prevent overeating and two hours per month taking the dog to a professional groomer.

The attentions given the dog were an “indispensable part of maintaining Aik as a law enforcement tool,” according to Fredericksen.

Fredericksen filed a federal complaint Friday, saying he asked Lynwood Police Chief Russell Pearson several times to pay him for his off-duty hours attending to the dog, but Pearson refused. Fredericksen argued Pearson’s refusal constituted a violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires police officers must receive at least time-and-a-half overtime pay for time worked beyond 171 hours in a 28-day period.

To bolster his position, Fredericksen said federal district courts in Illinois have held to the view an officer must be paid for off-duty care of an animal owned by a municipality. Fredericksen did not cite examples, but other cases that seem to touch on this issue include the 2001 case of Howard v. City of Springfield and Nichols v. City of Chicago from 1992.

Fredericksen is maintaining the village knew of the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, but showed a “reckless and willful disregard” of those provisions.

Fredericksen wants a judge to declare the village violated the law and to order the village to provide him with the back pay due him from May 1, 2012, to Sept. 1, 2014. Fredericksen also wants reimbursement for his attorney’s fees and costs.

The Chicago firm of Daniel Q. Herbert & Associates is representing Fredericksen. The case is assigned to Judge Gary Feinerman.

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