DC Finally Settles Decades Old Overtime Suit for $45 million

A contentious overtime battle in the Nation’s Capital that goes back to the 1990s has finally been settled… this time for real!!!

Last January the District of Columbia agreed to settle a suit brought by firefighters over the payment of overtime for $47 million. However, it wasn’t until yesterday that the parties finally worked out all the details and signed the agreement bringing the matter to an end.

Back in the 1990s the District was in dire financial straights. Congress appointed a special board, the Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority (aka the Control Board) and granted it broad powers to address the city’s financial instability. The Control Board increased the firefighters hours from 42 to 53.

Once the Control Board completed its duties, the District insisted the firefighter’s hours would remain at 53 while the firefighters argued they were entitled to overtime for all hours worked over 42. IAFF Local 36 challenged the city’s refusal to pay overtime, and prevailed at every step. The most recent ruling in the case occurred last December, when the District of Columbia Court of Appeals upheld an order requiring the payment of overtime for all hours over 42.

10/26/15: Updated with info from BC Dick Sterne from DC Fire – Regarding your post on the overtime settlement – The Control Board did not change the hours of duty. It did order that no city employee could be paid overtime unless it was required by FLSA. For DC firefighters on a 42 hour work week and a contract requiring all work on days off to be time and a half overtime, this had the effect of making overtime straight time unless the 212 hour threshold was reached and reducing leave hours from the total. The arbitrator and the courts ruled that this should have ended when the Control Board was dissolved and the District Government was returned to full financial control. The settlement requires the city to pay back the extra half of the time and a half.

THANK YOU CHIEF!!! Appreciate the correction!!!!

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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