Berkeley County police dog handler sues over pay
A Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office deputy and K-9 handler has filed a lawsuit against the county, alleging the county did not reimburse him for overtime work.
BCSO deputy James Blakely filed the complaint James Lamar Blakely vs. Berkeley County on May 20, and requested a jury trial.
A copy of the complaint was sent to The Independent by Mt. Pleasant attorney Marybeth Mullaney of Jaffe Glenn Law Group, P.A.
The complaint is against Berkeley County government, not the BCSO, Mullaney said.
It is a collective action complaint, meaning other deputies can opt into the lawsuit if they choose. One other deputy has joined so far, according to the attorney.
Blakely is a K-9 handler, and his work with the police dogs is one focus of the suit.
“The focus has been a lot on K-9s but it is not just for K-9 handlers,” Mullaney said. “They love their jobs and this lawsuit is about making sure they’re paid fairly.”
She said the lawsuit is in regard to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which ensures overtime pay and holiday pay is compensated.
The complaint alleges Blakely and other Berkeley County law enforcement officers suffered damages as a result of FLSA violations.
The complaint states that Blakely regularly worked in excess of 171 hours in a 28-day work cycle and was rarely compensated properly for those hours.
Blakely has worked for the county since 2001, according to the complaint. In 2008 he began working to train, care for, board and handle a K-9.
In addition to regularly scheduled hours of work, Blakely spent time in connection with the care of K-9s including feeding, watering, grooming, bathing, exercising, cleaning up after, training and bonding for which he was not compensated, according to the complaint.
Mullaney can only comment on what is public record at this point because the case is pending, she said Monday. The county has not responded to the complaint and has 30 days from the filing date to respond, according to Mullaney.
“It’s very early in the litigation,” Mullaney said. “Their law firm is still investigating. Who’s to say whether we will go to court or the case will settle? It’s in the very beginning stages.
“We still have a lot to learn and a lot of investigation to do.”
Mullaney said she specializes in such cases. While there are no similar cases in the area being handled by Jaffe Glenn Law Group, P.A., the firm does have offices in Miami and Camden, N.J., where there is currently a similar suit by law enforcement officers.
“We do have similar cases in other states,” she said.
Nicole Ewing of the Berkeley County Attorney’s Office said their office does not comment on pending litigation.