Are fire officers eligible for overtime? Does rank matter? In this episode Curt and Bill Maccarone discuss overtime issues associated with fire officers. Many fire departments consider some or all of their officers to be exempt from the overtime requirements of the FLSA under the “white collar” exemption. Court cases between 1985 and 2003 were all over the board. In 2004, the US Department of Labor implemented the First Responder Regulations in an effort to clarify the difficult issues.
Here are the Fire Responder Regulations, located in 29 C.F.R § 541.3. To put the First Responder Regulations into perspective, the Section 13(a)(1) exemptions that are mentioned are the so-called “White Collar” employee exemptions for executive, administrative and professional employees. Employees who qualify under the white collar exemptions are exempt from the FLSA’s minimum wage and maximum hour requirements.
541.3 Scope of the section 13(a)(1) exemptions.
(a) The section 13(a)(1) exemptions and the regulations in this part do not apply to manual laborers or other “blue collar” workers who perform work involving repetitive operations with their hands, physical skill and energy. Such nonexempt “blue collar” employees gain the skills and knowledge required for performance of their routine manual and physical work through apprenticeships and on-the-job training, not through the prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction required for exempt learned professional employees such as medical doctors, architects and archeologists. Thus, for example, non-management production-line employees and non-management employees in maintenance, construction and similar occupations such as carpenters, electricians, mechanics, plumbers, iron workers, craftsmen, operating engineers, longshoremen, construction workers and laborers are entitled to minimum wage and overtime premium pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act, and are not exempt under the regulations in this part no matter how highly paid they might be.
(b) (1) The section 13(a)(1) exemptions and the regulations in this part also do not apply to police officers, detectives, deputy sheriffs, state troopers, highway patrol officers, investigators, inspectors, correctional officers, parole or probation officers, park rangers, fire fighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, ambulance personnel, rescue workers, hazardous materials workers and similar employees, regardless of rank or pay level, who perform work such as preventing, controlling or extinguishing fires of any type; rescuing fire, crime or accident victims; preventing or detecting crimes; conducting investigations or inspections for violations of law; performing surveillance; pursuing, restraining and apprehending suspects; detaining or supervising suspected and convicted criminals, including those on probation or parole; interviewing witnesses; interrogating and fingerprinting suspects; preparing investigative reports; or other similar work.
(2) Such employees do not qualify as exempt executive employees because their primary duty is not management of the enterprise in which the employee is employed or a customarily recognized department or subdivision thereof as required under § 541.100. Thus, for example, a police officer or fire fighter whose primary duty is to investigate crimes or fight fires is not exempt under section 13(a)(1) of the Act merely because the police officer or fire fighter also directs the work of other employees in the conduct of an investigation or fighting a fire.
(3) Such employees do not qualify as exempt administrative employees because their primary duty is not the performance of work directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer’s customers as required under § 541.200.
(4) Such employees do not qualify as exempt professionals because their primary duty is not the performance of work requiring knowledge of an advanced type in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction or the performance of work requiring invention, imagination, originality or talent in a recognized field of artistic or creative endeavor as required under § 541.300. Although some police officers, fire fighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians and similar employees have college degrees, a specialized academic degree is not a standard prerequisite for employment in such occupations.