Over the past decade, especially in light of Homeland Security concerns, more and more municipal police departments have started K-9 units. Officers volunteer or are assigned to care for these animals. Given that many departments are union, oftentimes the employer and its police union negotiate language as to how K-9 officers should be compensated. Municipalities, however, must make sure their compensation practices comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act.
In the past few weeks, at least two Illinois municipalities have been sued under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Illinois Minimum Wage Law over how they pay their K-9 officers. It is imperative that all employers of K-9 officers take steps to insure their pay practices fully comply with federal and state wage and hour laws.