South Miami

South Miami

South Miami may settle lawsuit with former police sergeant

 

Special to the Miami Herald

South Miami’s lawyer is recommending that the city pay $17,500 to settle a lawsuit filed by a former police sergeant who said the city failed to pay him for time spent preparing for his daily shifts.

Michael Weissberg filed the federal lawsuit against the City of South Miami in October for unpaid overtime wages.

In his complaint, Weissberg claimed he was “required to work approximately 30 minutes off-the-clock ... for activities he performed at the City of South Miami Police Department prior to Roll Call.”

According to Weissberg, these activities included putting on and taking off his uniform, maintaining his weapon, maintaining his police car, and cleaning and maintaining his work uniform.

The proposed settlement includes $8,250 payable to Weissberg for, among other things, “alleged unpaid wages, including overtime compensation, for work-related activities as Patrol Sergeant prior to his scheduled shift start time.”

The city also would pay Weissberg’s attorney’s fees of $9,250.

The settlement is subject to approval by the South Miami City Commission at its May 5 meeting.

City Attorney Thomas Pepe called the deal a good settlement.

“It’s restricted to a very limited class of activity, which has to do solely with sergeants, which we only have two, working before their shift commences,” Pepe said.

Weissberg, 41, was hired on Jan. 24, 2005, and resigned March 23, 2013. He filed the suit on Oct. 25, through Kendall-based lawyer Brian Pollock. The city was represented by labor attorney Damian H. Albert of Fort Lauderdale.

“We look at it as a positive result,” Pollock said. “I think it sets a precedent, because the city is paying for the previous work that Mr. Weissberg did at the station before and after he clocked in. I think it sets a precedent for the other patrol sergeants who did the same thing and weren’t paid for the time. I think it opens the door for each of those patrol sergeants to come forward.”

The city denied Weissberg’s allegations and said that Weissberg taking on and off his police uniform and maintaining his service weapon(s) is not compensable under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The defendant also claimed that the time Weissberg spent cleaning his uniform and maintaining his take-home vehicle is barred by the collective bargaining agreement.

“These type of cases are driven by the attorneys’ fees, not by the amount of recovery,” Pepe said. “The fact that he might be able to (prove claims) and the risk of a substantial reward of attorneys fees if the case went all the way to trial is what prompted us to believe that it was appropriate to settle early in the game.”

According to the settlement, the city also claimed it had no knowledge that Weissberg was engaging in work-related activities prior to his scheduled shift time.

“It was physically impossible for a sergeant to come in at 2 p.m. for roll call at 2 p.m. and complete as many as 20 different tasks,” Weissberg said. “It was mandatory, if a sergeant wanted to do his job right, to come in early to take care of all of these things before roll call. I think (the decision) impacts the other sergeants that still have to do this.”

“I think it was an important thing to do,” Weissberg added. “My circumstances made it something that I had to do. I think it was a very clear-cut case of people being made to work overtime and not being paid for it. I knew from the beginning that it really had to be resolved this way.”

Read more South Miami stories from the Miami Herald

  • Soapbox

    Letter: South Miami pool will be a money pit

    How would you react if you were a shareholder in an organization that intentionally duped you over and over again? Imagine this: The majority of the board proposed a project that would greatly benefit the community. Construction of the project will be paid for with funds provided by a source outside of your organization. But the project will require extensive maintenance for perpetuity, and the maintenance will be funded for the next six years by another organization that is an affiliate of yours. After six years have elapsed, all shareholders in your organization will be billed for the perpetual maintenance for the project.

  • South Miami

    South Miami looking for budget cuts

    South Miami administrators are looking for hundreds of thousands of dollars in budget cuts after city commissioners rejected a proposal to save money by replacing city trash collectors with a private company.

  • Soapbox

    Letter: South Miami mayor is a mosquito-control novice

    It was reassuring to learn in Soapbox (Mosquito spraying can have negative consequences, Aug. 17) that South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard, a professor of biology at Florida International University, has discovered what most residents of his city knew decades ago – that mosquitoes breed in standing water, including the contents of bromeliads. But it wasn’t reassuring to learn that Stoddard apparently now feels qualified to advise the rest of us about his belated discovery – and to impose on all his neighbors his own conclusions about the impact of mosquito spraying in this region. If Stoddard had lived here during the weeks after Hurricane Andrew, he might have acquired a greater understanding of how far the quality of human life can deteriorate in a former swamp when mosquito spraying is suspended even temporarily.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK