In the last issue of The PBA
Magazine, I wrote about how the Lynch administration has improved police officers’
lives and livelihoods through a comprehensive legal strategy designed to advance
rights available to our members under federal and state law. I outlined the PBA’s
successes in persuading the courts to uphold the constitutionality of the PERB
law, defeating the planned imposition of a federal monitor, recouping 1127 deductions
wrongfully witheld from former Transit and Housing officers (leading to the repayment
of millions of dollars), and other achievements in defense of New York City police
This second in a series of articles will illustrate additional
ways that a strong and proactive legal strategy has benefited the PBA’s
We’ve scored several legal successes in disputes over pension issues.
When the City and Police Pension Fund tried to treat former Transit and Housing
officers like second-class citizens by denying them pension rights enjoyed by
every other NYPD officer, we brought suit and prevailed. As a result, those officers
received all the benefits of NYPD officers, including the ability to buy back
child-care leave and prior service time.
Then, after the union successfully lobbied for legislation crediting police
officers with pension time for prior city and state service, the city tried to
water down the legislation through overly restrictive interpretations. We brought
suit and won a settlement netting millions of dollars in benefits for our members.
This added scores of job titles in city and state government that qualified as
“police service” toward a member’s 20-year retirement. In one
dramatic example, a police officer went from having 18 years of police service
the day before the settlement to having 26 years, after buying eight years credit
pursuant to the settlement.
In another instance, the city tried to dilute the power of the PBA’s
(and other police unions’) votes on the Police Pension Board by maintaining
that only the Corporation Counsel could render decisions interpreting police benefits.
The PBA sued and the court ruled that “neither Corporation Counsel, nor
the police department are authorized to determine such matters.” The ruling
is significant and with tremendous long-term implications for police officers
because it ensures that the police unions, which have six of the 12 votes on the
Pension Board, have an equal voice in deciding issues involving members’
When former Mayor Giuliani attempted to completely civilianize
the CCRB hearing process in the dead of night, the PBA prevented him from doing
so by bringing suit. The court ultimately struck down the requirement that all
cases involving civilian complaints be heard by OATH, a non-NYPD city agency that
had a practice of publishing police officers’ names and the circumstances
of their cases on its website.
Fighting unlawful drug pricing practices
Believing that certain prescription drug manufacturers and the union’s
former prescription drug administrator may have engaged in unlawful practices
that artificially raised the prices of prescription drugs for our active and retired
members, the PBA led a nationwide effort to fight these practices. The PBA brought
no fewer than six class-action lawsuits aimed at ending these practices and the
union joined other pending actions against similar wrongdoers. One lawsuit has
already resulted in a favorable settlement for the funds. Plus, partly because
of the spotlight our lawsuits shined on the practices, the drug industry is now
receiving stricter scrutiny from regulators and prosecutors’ offices.
Enforcing the Fair Labor Standards Act
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the federal law that protects employees’
basic overtime-compensation rights, has been applied to New York City government
employees, including police officers, since 1985. Yet, it was not until this PBA
administration commissioned a study of the NYPD’s practices that we confirmed
that the Department might have been engaging in unlawful practices for decades.
Our investigation led to the filing of a federal lawsuit. The suit challenges
such practices as the wrongful denial of FLSA compensatory time off, the improper
computation of overtime, the wrongful imposition of an overtime cap and unlawful
retaliation against members for exceeding the cap. If successful, the suit could
result in the change of certain restrictive overtime and leave policies of the
NYPD. At present, over 15,000 members have joined that suit.
In the next issue of The PBA Magazine, I will review the PBA’s legal
accomplishments in matters pertaining to police officers’ physical safety
and other issues that affect their security and working conditions.