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UPDATE 4:50 p.m. :

Twenty-seven current and former Billings police officers are suing the city over a wage dispute. The class-action lawsuit was filed this morning in Yellowstone County District Court, said attorney Randy Bishop, who is representing the officers along with Great Falls attorney Lawrence Anderson.

In the complaint, the officers claim that their longevity pay has been wrongly calculated, probably since 1994, and they want the city to pay them back wages and penalties. They also want the city to pay their attorney fees and create a fund for other officers who didn’t join the lawsuit.

“After careful consideration, it looked to us like a matter that required a legal ruling,” Bishop said. “I filed it this morning and walked right over and had a very pleasant conversation with City Attorney Brent Brooks. I think we’re of the same mind that the way to resolve this as expeditiously as possible is to get it in front of a court and figure out what the rules will be.”

It is unclear how much the officers could be owed. Bishop said a judge would need to determine if the officers’ complaint is valid, and would then have to figure out a formula to calculate the amount owed. A judge will also decide if the case is worthy of class-action status, which would then mean that all affected officers would be eligible for payment.

The dispute centers on the calculation of longevity pay. Longevity pay is based on the amount of time an officer has worked for the city. It’s calculated using a complex formula that includes base salary. The confusion centers on which base salary is used: each officer’s base salary or that of a starting officer.

Bishop is hopeful that a settlement can be reached. He said a judge merely needs to decide who has been using the correct formula to calculate longevity pay.

This lawsuit is similar to a complaint filed nine years ago by a group of city firefighters. The firefighters sued the city in 2000, claiming they hadn’t been paid for all the hours they worked. After lengthy litigation, the city paid the firefighters $4.3 million plus legal fees.

The firefighters were represented by Anderson, the Great Falls attorney, and Gene Jarussi, who is Bishop’s law partner.


FIRST REPORT:

Twenty-seven current and former Billings police officers are suing the city over a wage dispute. The class-action lawsuit was filed this morning in Yellowstone County District Court.

In the complaint, the officers claim that their longevity pay has been wrongly calculated since 1994, and they want the city to pay them back wages and penalties. They also want the city to pay their attorney's fees and create a fund to pay other officers who didn't join the lawsuit.

Log on later today for more on this developing story.

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