Today’s Burning Question: Am I being Cheated Out of Overtime?

Today’s burning question: My department pays us on a 14-day cycle. However, we work a 53-hour work week. For some reason, our department does not pay us overtime until we reach the 106-hour mark in the 2-week period. If we are on a 53-hour work week, why are we not paid overtime after we reach 53-hours in the week. Meaning, if I work 120-hours in my long paycheck where I work 48 hours in week one and 72 hours in week two, wouldn’t that give me 19 hours of overtime – since in week 2 the math is: 72 – 53 = 19? As it stands now, I only get 14-hours of OT since OT is not calculated until I get 106 hours in the 2-week period. 

Answer: While most employers are required to pay overtime after 40 hours per week based on a 7-day workweek, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) allows a public sector fire department to adopt a work period of between 7 and 28-days, and not pay firefighters overtime until they work 212 hours in 28 days, or the same ratio based upon the work period selected. That works out to an average of 53 hours per week.

It sounds like your fire department adopted a 14-day work period. Whether they did or did not is a question of fact that must be resolved to answer your question. If they did not, then you are correct. However, the fact you are paid on a 14-day cycle along with the fact they have been calculating overtime based the 14-day work period indicates they have adopted a 14-day work period. The maximum hours for a 14-day work period is 106 hours. As such, assuming the fire department adopted a 14-day work period, they do not have to pay you overtime until you exceed 106 hours in 14-days.

Thus, if you worked 48 hours in week 1 and 72 hours in week 2, you worked a grand total of 120 hours, and are entitled to 14 hours of overtime (120 – 106 = 14) for the 14-day period.

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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