Mississippi Lieutenant Files Two Suits against City

A Mississippi fire lieutenant who claims he was passed over for promotion on several occasions, has filed two lawsuits in federal court against his department. Lt. Lonnie Johnson filed the first suit against the City of Laurel in October alleging a violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). His second suit was filed last month alleging a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

In the USERRA case, Lt. Johnson contends that following a deployment as part of the Army Reserves in 2014, he was wrongfully passed over for promotion to lieutenant. After he complained he was promised the next promotional opening. When that next opening occurred, he was again passed over. Earlier this year he was passed over again, promoting him to file a formal grievance.

In August, 2020, Lt. Johnson was finally promoted to lieutenant. The suit claims had he been promoted when he should have been in 2014, he would have been in line for promotion to captain this past August. Here is a copy of that lawsuit:

Lt. Johnson’s second suit claims the city violated the FLSA by failing to pay overtime properly. As explained in the complaint:

  • Plaintiff and other firefighters… work between two hundred sixteen (216) and two hundred sixty-four (264) scheduled hours per month.
  • Defendant only pays Plaintiff and other firefighters overtime pay for two (2) hours each month of the scheduled hours they work even though they are owed overtime wages for a substantial amount more each month
  • Defendant violated the FLSA by not paying all overtime wages owed to Plaintiff for all overtime hours worked.

The suit seeks class action status on behalf of all similarly situated firefighters. Here is a copy of the FLSA lawsuit:

More on the story.

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.
x

Check Also

Seventh Circuit Quotes Fire Chief’s “Gag-A-Maggot” Comment In Ruling in Department’s Favor

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a district court ruling holding that the City of Loves Park, Illinois did not violate the Constitutional rights of a woman by forcing entry into her home, seizing 37 cats, and condemning her home. A key point in the ruling was the comment of Loves Park Fire Chief Philip Foley that the smell coming from the home could "gag a maggot."

Massachusetts Chief Prevails in First Amendment Photo Case

A lawsuit brought by a Massachusetts firefighter unhappy with the fire chief for requiring his photo to be taken, has been dismissed. Thomas Swartz, a now-retired firefighter-paramedic with the Borne Fire Department, claims Fire Chief Norman Sylvester ordered him to pose for a photo, and suspended him without pay when he refused.