Iraq and Afghanistan Firefighters File Suit for Over $100M

On Tuesday, twenty-eight US firefighters filed a class action lawsuit against Wackenhut Services International, Kellog-Brown & Root, LLC (KBR) and Halliburton Corp, claiming fraud, conspiracy, and breach of contract arising out of their work in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The firefighters allege they were deceived into going overseas, not paid the wages and benefits they were promised, and threatened when they tried to complain. The 30 page complaint was filed in Federal District Court in Washington, DC.

The suit alleges that some 2,000 firefighters were wrongfully deprived of “lawful wages required by government contracts – including in-country pay, danger pay, on-call pay, up-lift pay, overtime, and other benefits and compensation”. The suit also alleges that the defendants billed the US government for hours worked by the firefighters for which they were never paid.

According to the complaint, firefighters were required to be on duty 24/7, but were only paid for 12 hours a day. They claim they were told there would be two shifts assigned each day, but when they arrived there was only one shift. The defendants required them to remain at work on-call with no pay for the other 12 hours.

The named plaintiffs were among those who opted out of a proposed arbitration settlement that was negotiated with the defendants back in 2010. The proposed settlement would have granted $1,500 to each firefighter and paid the attorneys who brought the claim $1,000,000. The plaintiffs opted out because their average lost overtime claims exceeded $40,000, exclusive of interests, costs, civil penalties, and attorneys fees – all of which are compensable under the FLSA.

The plaintiffs are seeking to recover compensable damages, statutory damages and penalties, plus over $100,000,000 in punitive damages. While it is a tough read, the complaint is pretty interesting.

Here is the complaint. Hill v Wackenhut

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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