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.”