Tulsa Reaches $1 Million Settlement with Firefighters in FLSA Overtime Suit

The City of Tulsa has agreed to settle an overtime lawsuit with over 500 current and former Tulsa firefighters for $1,060,000. The suit was filed in January, 2022 by thirteen Tulsa firefighters alleging the city was not properly paying overtime.

By June, 2023 a Third Amended Complaint was filed with 526 plaintiffs, and a central allegation as follows:

  • Plaintiffs are paid a fixed salary every two weeks on their biweekly payday to compensate them for their regularly scheduled hours. Prior to April 2021, Plaintiffs received either “OT FLSA .5” or “OT FLSA 1.5” pay for their regularly scheduled overtime work that exceeded the applicable FLSA threshold.
  • However, in or about April 2021, Defendants ceased paying Plaintiffs FLSA overtime for their regularly scheduled overtime work. As a result, Defendants have failed to pay Plaintiffs one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for their regularly scheduled overtime work, as required by the FLSA.
  • At all times material herein, Defendants have known and should have known that uncompensated overtime work was being performed by Plaintiffs. For example, Defendants track Plaintiffs’ regularly scheduled shifts, including overtime hours, and any additional overtime shifts that are picked up or worked by the Plaintiffs. Defendants also administer Plaintiffs’ biweekly paychecks and thus knows Plaintiffs have not received FLSA overtime payments for their regularly scheduled overtime work since at least April 2021.
  • In addition to their regularly scheduled shifts, Plaintiffs also frequently pick up overtime shifts when stations are short on staffing or overtime work is otherwise needed. To be paid for overtime shifts that are not part of their regular shift schedule, Defendants require Plaintiffs to submit a written overtime slip to their supervisors. The overtime request is then passed up to the Assistant Chief level and then transmitted to payroll, where it is supposed to be processed and paid.
  • Without explanation or justification, Defendants have frequently failed to issue payment in a timely manner after Plaintiffs submit their overtime slips for payment. At times material from January 28, 2019, and through the present and ongoing, Defendants have unreasonably delayed such overtime payment for periods of weeks or months beyond Plaintiffs’ regularly scheduled biweekly payday. For example, Plaintiff Lamb performed unscheduled overtime work beyond the applicable FLSA threshold on November 28, 2021, and December 11, 2021, in the pay period ending December 11, 2021. Plaintiff Lamb timely submitted an overtime payment request pursuant to Department policy, but payment for such overtime work has been delayed unreasonably by more than 38 days.

The details of the settlement have not been announced, outside of the total amount agreed to.

Here are the court documents:

Here is a news video about the settlement – I was not able to embed the story – but the city blames a ransomware attack for some of the damages. More on the story.

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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