Daly City police win in fight for uniform pay

Police officers will be compensated for the time it takes to put on and take off their uniforms, according to a settlement of a federal lawsuit approved by the rank and file Friday.

Last year, more than 100 police officers joined a lawsuit against the city for not receiving pay for the time — approximately 20 minutes per day — they spend donning and doffing their uniforms, bulletproof vests, guns, boots and other safety gear.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, followed similar suits by police officers working for the San Leandro, Richmond and San Francisco police departments and the California Highway Patrol.

“If it’s necessary for the work, people have to get paid for what they are doing,” said Peter Hoffmann, associate at Rains Lucia Stern, a law firm in Pleasant Hill that is handling several “don and doff” lawsuits, including the one in Daly City.

This week, Daly City, the only city in San Mateo County to ever face a don-and-doff lawsuit, agreed to pay each officer $2,500 in retroactive pay for the past two years and compensate the officers for the task from now on.

“I think it’s fair for police or any other profession that has to put on extra equipment and to maintain it that we’re allowed the time to do it,” said Jeff Rodriguez, president of Daly City’s police union, who brought on the lawsuit joined by 106 other officers.

City Manager Patricia Martel said although the issue of don-and-doff pay had been bantered about for years, it moved into the courts after CHP officers were awarded pay for changing uniforms.

“It’s like a domino effect — once one department gets something, everyone else wants it too, and thinks they are entitled to it,” Martel said.

The two sides settled the lawsuit as part of labor-contract talks that ended this week after more than one year of negotiations. Martel said city officials originally contested the suit not because of the money, but as a matter of principle.

“We took the position that we’re here to prudently manage the taxpayers’ money, and we didn’t think this was prudent,” she said. “But at the end of the day, we need to move on.”

Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, who was not involved with the case, said the officers’ argument may potentially open a new avenue in labor relations.

“Is there a difference whether it should apply in public safety or anywhere where there are uniforms?” he said. “It’s interesting to see how the society will evolve with this.”

svasilyuk@sfexaminer.com

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