State police K9 officers file suit seeking overtime for taking care of their dogs

jwarren@herald-leader.comApril 3, 2014 

Nine officers in the Kentucky State Police K9 unit allege in court that the state police violates the federal Fair Labor Standards Act by refusing to let them claim overtime for maintaining their dogs.

Originally filed in Franklin Circuit Court, the lawsuit was transferred this week to U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

Plaintiffs in the case are Stephen Burke, a state K9 officer from Bowling Green, and eight other officers from across Kentucky.

All of the plaintiffs are or recently have been K9 officers with the state police or Kentucky Commercial Vehicle Enforcement, an agency under KSP command.

Named as defendants are the Kentucky State Police and state police Commissioner Rodney Brewer.

In addition to Burke, other plaintiffs are Landry Collett of Middlesboro, Jason Fuqua of Owensboro, Ryan Gosser of Bedford, Randall Honeycutt of Albany, Matthew Hutti of Stanford, Jason McCowan of East Bernstadt, Michael Sandbrink of Cadiz and Kenny Yarber of Stanton.

The K9 officers say in the lawsuit that they are responsible for feeding, grooming and otherwise maintaining their police dogs in their own homes, but the state police won't let them claim overtime pay for the time they spend doing that.

They are allowed five hours a week for canine maintenance but they cannot claim overtime, according to the suit.

The lawsuit says it was common "practice and custom" for state Commercial Vehicle Enforcement K9 officers to receive overtime for maintaining their dogs under an October 2000 settlement with the Kentucky Personnel Board.

But when Kentucky State Police assumed control of CVE in July 2008, the lawsuit says, state police informed CVE dog handlers that they would no longer be able to claim such overtime.

"KSP commanders threatened the K9 handlers on more than one occasion during their annual recertification meetings" that any handlers who wished to complain about the policy "were welcome to transfer out of the K9 Special Operations Unit," the lawsuit alleges.

It also states that when one of the plaintiffs submitted a request for canine maintenance overtime, his request was denied and he was told not to submit any more.

The suit claims that state police officials, with Brewer's "knowledge and support, engaged in willful and intentional conduct" to deny the plaintiffs compensation for time spent maintaining their dogs.

The suit seeks a judgment against the defendants for compensatory, punitive and liquidated damages. A jury trial also is requested.

Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255.

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