118 California Firefighters File FLSA Overtime Suit

Firefighters in Santa Rosa have filed a class action lawsuit claiming the city has been improperly calculating their overtime pay in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The suit was filed last week in US District Court for the Northern District of California by 118 Santa Rosa firefighters.

The suit claims that the city failed to include all remuneration when calculating the employees’ regular rate. Regular rate is the hourly figure upon which an employee’s overtime rate is calculated. Employers commonly use a contractual rate or base rate when calculating overtime, without including all of the various wage augments that must be included. The FLSA requires that regular rate include all remuneration and it be multiplied by 1.5 to determine the overtime rate.

In the Santa Rosa case, firefighters allege that the city failed to include holiday pay and sick leave incentive pay in the regular rate. The error also resulted in the city improperly compensating employees when cashing out accrued comp time.

Normally under the FLSA, employees can go back two years to recover double damages, or twice the amount of compensation they were improperly denied, plus interests, costs and attorneys fees. However, when the employer’s actions are deemed to be willful, employees can go back an additional year for a total of years. The suit alleges that the firefighters brought the discrepancy to the city’s attention last year, but the city refused to rectify this situation, making the violation willful.

Here is a copy of the complaint: ABOUDARA v SANTA ROSA

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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