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Published February 06 2013

Lawsuit in Chicago: Answering calls, scanning emails after work hours deserves overtime

CHICAGO — Does scanning emails and answering calls from bosses on your smartphone after hours constitute work that should be compensated? A lawsuit winding its way through federal court in Chicago says that it does.

Chicago police Sgt. Jeffrey Allen claims in the suit that the city owes him and fellow officers overtime pay for work performed on department-requisitioned BlackBerry phones. If the plaintiffs eventually prevail, it could mean millions of dollars in back pay.

The issue impacts workers everywhere, Allen's lawyer said Wednesday after a hearing in the case.

“Everybody can relate to this because people are being asked all the time these days to work for free and they are being told to work for free using their phones,” attorney Paul Geiger said.

Earlier Wednesday, attorneys for both Allen and the city told a judge they had agreed on the wording of documents that will be sent to other officers asking if they want to join the lawsuit.