A Violation of Due Process?


The Pinal County Board of Supervisors appears to be facing significant resentment from the men and women of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Department. About two years ago, in an effort to control cost, the County arbitrarily limited overtime on a quarterly basis. When that limit is met, the County forces deputies to work overtime for unpaid compensation, which is essentially time off. However, the County appears to be illegally making money in the process.

 The legal perspective is quite interesting. Once a Deputy has worked overtime, the County incurs an accounting liability for the value of the overtime worked. The Deputy has an inherent interest in this value as a property value. It is the Deputy’s property.

 When the County placed an arbitrary limit on the overtime the Sheriff’s Office could work, it replaced overtime payment with unpaid “comp time.”  However, the County also stated that the Deputy had to take “comp” time off first before vacation time. As a result of the accumulated “comp” time, the Deputy was unable to access his vacation time.

 So we have a case of the County Government arbitrarily restricting overtime payment for work received from the Deputy. In addition, the County forces the Deputy to accept unpaid “comp” time in return for overtime worked.

 Unfortunately, the PCSO is understaffed due to hiring restrictions placed on it by the County. The understaffing creates a situation where the PCSO is forced to work overtime to meet minimum staffing levels that prevent the deputy from using up previously earned “comp” time. Some beats go unmanned due to understaffing. Because the Deputy cannot use up his earned “comp” time, the County prohibits him/her from using earned vacation time. At the end of the County’s Fiscal Year, any unused vacation is erased off the books.

 The Deputy has a property interest in his/her earned vacation time. The County recognizes this property interest as a liability to the County: they owe the Deputy the value of the vacation earned. When the County unilaterally took the earned vacation away from the Deputy, the County deprived the Deputy of his property interest without due process of law (5th and 14th Amendments) at a minimum.

 On what authority can the County deprive a Deputy of property rights obtained through honest labor? On what authority can the County manipulate internal policy to force its Deputies to not only work for “free” (unpaid “comp” time) but also sacrifice their earned vacation time (vested property right) due to the County’s own manipulation of policy?

 This issue has been referred by the Board of Supervisors to a work group to meet in October. This will be an interesting meeting as the two Democrat Supervisors do not like the Republican Sheriff. This issue is not only a morale and safety issue for the deputies but a potential legal issue for the County Supervisors.


Comments

  1. This is totally standard and legal in the public sector while being illegal in private sector businesses, except for few instances. In fact for fire and police the law is even more lax. It is totally wrong and your party sought to actually extend the practice to the private sector in 2003. Thankfully they did not succeed.

    Too bad the deputies don’t have a decent union or work in a state that disallows the limiting of vacation rollover.

  2. Richard D. Brinkley says:

    Todd:

    Why would an act be legal in the public sector and illegal in the private sector. Your statement does not make sense and is not supported by any citation to statutory code.

    And to which party do I belong? It appears that you cast a “strawman” accusation when you disagree with someone but cannot back up your disagreement with facts.

    Todd, you are entitled to your opinion but you are not entitled to your own set of facts.

  3. Richard Brinkley,
    Because the law has made it legal for public sector.

    This is all laid out in the Fair Labor Standards Act. Section 7(o) provides the exemption for comp time in lieu of overtime pay for public sector workers. Section 7(o)(3)(A) says that public employees may only accumulate 480 hours of comp time with the exception of public safety and emergency response individuals.

    It is also legal for the employers in these situations to require the comp time be used first just as it is to cap roll-over of vacation time in Arizona.

    As to my comment about ‘your party’ I assume you are a Republican, if not, I apologize.

  4. Richard D. Brinkley says:

    Todd:

    Thanks for the citation. This helps.

    So, let’s agree, for the moment, that the citataion says what you say it says, that the forced use of comp time is legal.

    Under what authority, then, can the County unilaterally erase a property right of the Deputy wthout due process? This is theft of the value of the Deputy’s property interest in the value of the vacation time.

    This question is the crux of the blog.

  5. Richard,
    Doesn’t the county routinely erase the accrued vacation time at the end of the year or at some other annual point? Making someone take comp time first appears to be legal in terms of FLSA. Some states require that unused vacation time needs to be paid out as cash to employees rather than simply erasing it, Arizona does not.

    Forcing people to take comp time should be illegal. The value of a certain wage stays constant but the value of comp time is highly variable when the employer can tell the employee when and how to take it. For instance an employer can tell an employee they can only use it in two hour blocks or other nonsense.

    Unfortunately, what is happening to the deputies you mention doesn’t seem to be illegal to me. However, IANAL so my opinion in the matter is not particularly useful.

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