44 California Firefighters File FLSA Suit

Forty-four current and former firefighters from Southern Marin Fire Protection District have filed suit in federal court alleging overtime compensation violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The suit was filed in US District Court for the Northern District of California on February 16, 2016 alleging that the fire protection district failed to properly calculate the firefighters’ “regular rate”, which in turn caused their overtime compensation to be too low.

According to the complaint, in calculating the regular rate the fire protection district failed to include “additional compensation including, but not limited to, holiday pay, out-of-class pay, longevity pay, and housing allowances”.

For those unfamiliar with some of the finer points of the FLSA, when calculating overtime compensation the employer must first establish an employee’s regular rate, then multiply that times 1.5 to determine the overtime rate. The FLSA requires the regular rate to include “all remuneration for employment”, not just a contractually stipulated hourly rate. Thus, the FLSA mandates that compensation like longevity pay, medic pay, educational incentives, etc. be included in the regular rate for overtime purposes.

Here is a copy of the complaint: Allen v Southern Marin FPD

BTW, this is one of the simplest, most straight-forward FLSA complaints I have seen. A tip-o-the-hat to attorneys Gregg McLean Adam, Jonathan Yank and Jennifer S. Stoughton for making simple what some attorneys have a propensity to make unnecessarily over-complicated!!!!

As for regular rate suits, my data shows they continue to be roughly 46% of FLSA lawsuits in the fire service. In terms of recent suits (past 5 years) it remains the hottest FLSA issue.

Our next FLSA for Fire Departments class is in August in Chicago, Illinois. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing plans to host two additional classes later this year, one in Mesa, Arizona and one in the southeast, either South Carolina or Florida. Both of the new classes will be late fall (Nov-Dec) time frame.

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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