3 Jupiter police officers file lawsuit against town over overtime hours
The lawsuit alleges Jupiter did not properly compensate the officers, two of whom have retired, for the overtime they worked.
Julius Whigham II
Palm Beach Post
JUPITER — A veteran Jupiter police officer and two who recently retired from the department have filed a lawsuit against the town, alleging they were not properly paid for the overtime hours they worked.
Their attorneys filed a formal complaint in Palm Beach County’s Circuit Court on June 2, alleging that the town failed to compensate the three officers and others within the police department properly.
The lawsuit alleges that Jupiter officials “knowingly, intentionally, and willfully violated the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) by failing to pay Plaintiffs and all similarly situated employees the overtime compensation to which they were entitled.”
As of Wednesday, Jupiter had yet to file a response to the complaint, court records show. A spokeswoman for the town said it would not comment on pending litigation on the advice of its attorneys.
Lawsuit filed as class complaint, allowing other officers to join
The lawsuit names Jupiter police officer Jeffrey Bernstein and retired officers Vincent Curcio and John Angelone as plaintiffs. However, the attorneys said they filed it as a class complaint, meaning that other current and former Jupiter officers can join the lawsuit.
Records show Bernstein is an 18-year veteran of the department. Curcio retired in July after 28 years in Jupiter, while Angelone retired in August after an 18-year career with the department, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement database shows.
The lawsuit indicates that it is seeking the recovery of missed overtime pay dating back three years. It alleges that the town “showed a willful disregard for the provisions of the FLSA” and intentionally attempted to skirt federal law.
“All the town had to do was follow the law, live up to its end of the bargain and pay these police officers what they are owed, but they failed to do so, “said Robert Johnson, an attorney for Pike & Lustig, the West Palm Beach law firm that filed the lawsuit.
The lawsuit defines overtime as working more than 171 hours in a 28-day work period. An exemption for police and fire departments under the Fair Labor Standards Act permits public employers to calculate a work cycle that ranges from seven to 28 days. The officers were entitled to be paid time and a half for the overtime hours, the lawsuit said.
Court records show the plaintiffs are seeking damages in excess of $100,000. The amount could grow if other officers join the lawsuit.
“Each officer will have different financial damages, depending upon the number of hours they’ve worked that were not paid for appropriately,” said attorney Michael Pike, managing partner for Pike & Lustig.
Jupiter budgets $13.3 million in compensation for police department
Jupiter’s police budget for expenditures for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 is $24.6 million, including $13.3 million for salaries, overtime and other compensation, town records show.
The Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association, which represents the town’s police officers and sergeants, currently has a three-year contract with Jupiter that expires in September 2022. Efforts to reach a representative for Palm Beach County’s police union were unsuccessful.
The town has more than 100 sworn law enforcement officers and about 30 civilian personnel. The police department is led by Chief David England, who was promoted to the top role in February following the retirement of former chief Daniel Kerr.