Orchard Park Police reach settlement over uniforms

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – The Orchard Park Town Board has agreed to spend $210,000 to settle a five-year-old lawsuit over the issue of whether police officers should get paid for the time it takes to put their uniforms on.

“Our Town Board approved of it because we want to look forward, not backward,” said Dr. Patrick Keem, who just became Orchard Park Supervisor in January.

He is relieved to put to rest the suit brought by 26 present and former Orchard Park Police officers fighting to be paid for the time it took to put on their uniforms, bullet proof vests, and gun belts each day.

“I don’t get paid to get dressed. When I was a dentist, I didn’t get paid to get dressed, it’s all part of the job,” said Keem. “They asked for $2 million in the beginning in 2009, and we got it down to $210,000.”

Only $72,000 of the settlement actually goes to the officers. Another $85,000 goes to the attorney who represented the town, and the remaining $53,000 goes to the police officers’ attorney.

Police attorney Paul Weiss says it’s about the Federal Labor Standards Act, which municipalities have been required to follow since 1986, and he says the old Orchard Park Police schedule wasn’t cutting it.

“They had to report early and that was part of the work. Once they show up at police headquarters, they’re at work. They left late, that was required.”

Weiss says officers weren’t being paid for that time.

This lawsuit was also about full compensation. While overtime for most people means time and a half, oftentimes municipal workers are entitled to time and three-quarters after you include longevity pay, sick leave, or shift differential in some contracts.

“Unfortunately, the education is through a lawsuit,” said Weiss, who has reached similar settlements with Erie County, Town of Tonawanda, and the NFTA.

In this case, Orchard Park Police now come to work 15 minutes early to put on their uniforms, but they are compensated for it.

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