Over the years, the 12 hour shift in police departments has grown in popularity. For officers, working a twelve hour shift translates into an increase in days off throughout the year. For the department, staffing two instead of three shifts a day often results in reduced overtime costs. It’s always made sense that dispatchers should work the same schedule. The only problem is that a 12 hour shift schedule results in employees working under 40 hours in some weeks and over 40 hours in other weeks. Unlike the specific partial exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act that applies to police and firefighters, dispatchers and other public employees who do not meet the definition for that partial exemption are entitled to time and one-half pay for hours worked over 40 in a week, regardless of whether the employee’s hours were under 40 the week before.
Public safety departments were forced to either keep the dispatchers on a different, eight-hour schedule, than sworn employees, or pay overtime resulting from the 12-hour shifts.
Effective January 1, 2016, an amendment to the Illinois Minimum Wage Law will give many public employers some relief to this dilemma. The amendment creates a new partial exemption as follows:
Any employee who is a member of a bargaining unit recognized by the Illinois Labor Relations Board and whose union has contractually agreed to an alternate shift schedule as allowed by subsection (b) of Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. 820 ILCS 105/4a(2)(J).
The alternate shift schedules, as defined in Section 7(b) of the FLSA are as follows:
(1) in pursuance of an agreement, made as a result of collective bargaining by representatives of employees…which provides that no employee shall be employed more than one thousand and forty hours during any period of twenty-six consecutive weeks; or
(2) in pursuance of an agreement, made as a result of collective bargaining by representatives of employees… which provides that during a specified period of fifty-two consecutive weeks the employee shall be employed not more than two thousand two hundred and forty hours and shall be guaranteed not less than one thousand eight hundred and forty-hours (or not less than forty-six weeks at the normal number of hours worked per week, but not less than thirty hours per week) and not more than two thousand and eighty hours of employment for which he shall receive compensation for all hours guaranteed or worked at rates not less than those applicable under the agreement to the work performed and for all hours in excess of the guaranty which are also in excess of the maximum workweek applicable to such employee under subsection (a) of this section or two thousand and eighty in such period at rates not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed.
Although the problem with alternative shift schedules most commonly arises in police and fire departments because they require 24 hour operation, this new legislation will allow public employers greater flexibility to create schedules that work for all of their unionized staff.