Photo Credit: Eric Leonard

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Dozens of Los Angeles police officers sued the city in federal court this week contending they were robbed of pay owed to them for working overtime and through meal breaks.

The lawsuit contends that officers are expected to work overtime to prepare for and wrap up their shifts, but they are not paid for the work. The officers also allege hours they worked during breaks were not reimbursed.

The City Attorney's Office declined to comment.

The suit was filed a labor dispute between the city and the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents about 9,900 rank-and-file officers.

A tentative one-year labor agreement reached earlier this month was rejected by members of the union, with LAPPL officials saying Los Angeles police officers are paid less than their peers and are unhappy that pay raises were left out of the proposed contract.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said last week there is no money in the budget for pay raises.

Union representatives said the LAPPL is not involved in the lawsuits filed this week and declined to comment on the allegations of overtime wage theft.

Overtime pay has been a major topic of discussion in labor negotiations between the city and the union.

Under the terms of the recently rejected labor agreement reached between city and union officials, officers would have started getting paid for their overtime work, to the tune of about $70 million over the upcoming year.

Los Angeles police officers have not been paid up-front for overtime in recent years after agreeing to defer getting paid through a practice called ``banking.'' Officers have also been forced to take time off in order to avoid racking up more overtime.

Police Chief Charlie Beck said during a Police Commission meeting Tuesday that despite the tentative contract being rejected, the city has nevertheless starting paying officers overtime. As of this week, officers have already been paid $3 million for overtime work, he said.

Garcetti and Beck said last week they hoped to return soon to the negotiating table.