Florida Firefighters File FLSA Suit Over Training Time

Four Florida firefighters have filed suit claiming their department required them to attend job-related training and failed to compensate them for the time. David Garner, Brian Ostos, Alejandro Osorio, and Joseph Quinn filed suit this week in US District Court for the Northern District of Florida naming the Destin Fire Control District as the sole defendant.

The firefighters claim they were required to attend certain mandatory training for which they were paid while on-duty, but not paid if off-duty. As explained in the complaint:

  • Plaintiffs were periodically required and directed to participate in training programs to enhance their skills to perform their jobs with Defendant.
  • This training, however, was not mandated by the State of Florida to perform their jobs. This training was mandated by the CBA.
  • These training programs typically took place during normal business hours and the cost of the training was paid for by Defendant.
  • Plaintiffs would be paid for their time attending these training programs if they fell on days they were scheduled to work.
  • If the training program fell on a day they were not scheduled to work, they would receive no additional pay for attending the program.
  • Plaintiffs did not perform any productive work while attending these training sessions.
  • Failure to participate in these training programs could result in Plaintiffs’ termination from employment with Defendant.
  • These training programs were selected and scheduled by Defendant.
  • These training programs were not run by independent bona fide institutions of learning; but rather contractors who were hired by Defendant to provide the training.
  • These trainers would typically travel to the Destin, Florida area to specifically provide training at the request of Defendant.
  • Plaintiffs were not paid for the time they attended mandatory training sessions when these sessions took place on days they were not otherwise scheduled to work.
  • As a result, this time spent in training sessions was not included in the overtime pay calculation and Defendant underpaid the overtime pay due in these pay periods.
  • Such failure to include time spent in these training sessions in the overtime pay calculation is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • If the training took place on a day the Plaintiffs were scheduled to work, they would receive pay while attending training.
  • Defendant failed to keep accurate time records of all the hours worked by Plaintiffs in violation of 29 CFR §516 because the time spent in mandatory training sessions on days Plaintiff was not scheduled to work was not accurately recorded.
  • Defendant intentionally and willfully failed to pay Plaintiffs’ overtime wages and Defendant had knowledge of Plaintiffs’ training schedules and showed reckless disregard by failing to comply with the provisions of the FLSA concerning the payment of overtime wages as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • Defendant was sued on July 20, 2020 by other firefighters claiming unpaid overtime under virtually identical circumstances, but the Defendant did not change their pay policy. See Jensen v. The Destin Fire Control District, Case No. 3:20-cv- 05661-RV-HTC.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

We cover the very important topic of training time in our FLSA program: FLSA for Fire Departments. Those who have been through the program will recall the general rule and the six exceptions. Notice how the language used in the complaint is keyed to the address (and counter) several of the more common exceptions to the general rule that training time is compensable. For those who do not understand what I just said, our next session is February 15-18, 2022.

For fire departments who believe they may be in violation of the FLSA, please consider attending our November 23, 2021 program: Advanced FLSA:  I Think We Screwed Up, What Do We Do Now? We cover how to conduct an FLSA self-audit, evaluate possible defenses, and strategies for mitigating damages.

Also, here is a copy of the earlier FLSA lawsuit filed against the Destin Fire Control District. That complaint appears more focused on the wage augment aspect of the “open water rescuer” incentive of $46.15 per pay check.

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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