Today’s Burning Question: Can a collective bargaining agreement trump the Fair Labor Standards Act as far as overtime goes? I heard the FLSA trumps everything, including a CBA. What I mean is, if a CBA states that firefighters must work 192 hours in each 28-day work period before being eligible for overtime, does the FLSA mandated 212 hours in 28 days take precedence?
Answer: While the FLSA certainly can trump collective bargaining agreements, that is not always the case. The best perspective is to consider the FLSA to be the floor below – which an employer cannot go. Employers can offer greater benefits than is required by the FLSA, but not less.
Thus a CBA can offer greater benefits than the FLSA, but can never provide less than what the FLSA requires. In your case the CBA provides overtime after 192 hours in a 28-day work period, which is a higher benefit than what the 212 hours the FLSA requires. The city could not use the FLSA to reduce the firefighters benefits without violating the CBA.
Compare that to a CBA that offers less than the FLSA requires. For example, if the CBA provided that overtime would be paid a time and one-quarter instead of time and one-half, the FLSA would trump the CBA.