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Jul 2009
Should LAPD Officers Pursue Donning and Doffing Cases?
LAPPL Board of Directors

Donning and doffing cases are one of the hottest topics between public agenciesand public safety labor organizations. In law enforcement, donning refers to thetime it takes a police officer to put on his uniform and safety equipment. Doffingis the time required to remove the same uniform and equipment at end of shift.The LAPD requires its police officers to maintain, don and doff unique uniformclothing and protective equipment necessary to the performance of their jobswith the City of Los Angeles. The City pays no compensation to LAPD officers forthe time spent maintaining, donning and doffing this unique uniform andprotective equipment. As a result, the time spent by officers on such activitiesoccurs outside the officers' regularly scheduled shifts and is not compensated bythe City.

The required LAPD uniform is a combination package and gear that is specified ingreat detail in the LAPD Manual. In broad terms, along with the specified attire,the uniform package includes required safety gear that officers are required towear, maintain, and ensure is properly working. Taken together, the authorizeduniform package weighs between twenty (20) and thirty (30) pounds. The bodyarmor alone weighs approximately 10 pounds. The duty equipment belt bears asubstantial portion of the remaining weight because affixed to it is the officer'ssafety equipment, including the firearm, additional ammunition, baton, flashlight,pepper spray, handcuffs and other gear. The sheer bulk of the items thatcomprise the uniform package not only reduces an officer's mobility, but alsocontributes to the chronic back and knee problems often suffered by officers.

The numerous items of specialized safety gear, along with the various pieces ofattire that form an integral uniform package, are essential to effective policework. Because the LAPD requires, as a condition of employment, that officers inpatrol and traffic assignments be dressed in their uniform and prepared with alltheir safety gear from the time the shift commences until it concludes, the timespent by individual officers inspecting the functionality of the individual pieces ofequipment, rendering it operational, maintaining the equipment, ensuring thatthe attire meets Department standards, as well as putting on and removing all thevarious components of the required police uniform package is done entirely priorto and after an officer's shift. There is no good reason or legal cause why LAPD officers should not receive the same protection as other workers.

While some have expressed the point of view that police officers should not be suing for pay to get dressed, it is the federal wage law and the associated Court decisions which require such pay. Starting with the U.S Supreme Court in late 2005, through a decision in the Central District Court against LAPD this May, the federal wage ‘law’ has developed to require employers to pay for pre and post shift time spent donning, doffing, and performing other tasks associated with unique uniforms and special protective gear which is required by the employer. This is the law, and is the valid basis and purpose for the ongoing litigation. In addition, the rights to pursue such litigation belong to the individual employees - - not to the unions - - and the idea that the unions are forcing unnecessary litigation is misplaced and incorrect. Individual peace officers are, unfortunately, having to resort to litigation to force LAPD to comply with the wage law mandating pay for the pre and post shift time which LAPD requires as a essential part of the police work performed.

Please share your thoughts and join the discussion on this important issue.



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