Thank you to everyone who helped contribute to this investigation. Unfortunately, at this point, attorneys working with ClassAction.org have decided to close their investigation into this matter. If you have questions regarding your rights, please reach out to an attorney in your area. Most offer free consultations.
The information below was posted when the investigation began and exists for reference only. Our open list of investigations can be found here.
At A Glance
This Alert Affects:
Current and former fire captains and investigators who weren't paid overtime.
What's Going On?
An appeals court has ruled that these employees should be earning time-and-a-half wages for their overtime hours. Now, attorneys working with ClassAction.org are speaking with fire captains and investigators to help them make claims for their unpaid wages.
Can I Get Fired?
Federal law strictly prohibits employers from retaliating against employees simply because they've exercised their legal rights.
Attorneys would like to speak with fire captains and investigators about how they’re being paid.
Attorneys have reason to believe that some fire and rescue departments are illegally denying these employees time-and-a-half wages when they work overtime. A handful of class action lawsuits have already been filed – and now, courts are starting to rule in workers’ favor.
What Started the Investigation?
In mid-2016, an appeals court ruled against a fire department in Virginia that claimed its fire captains – also known as fire investigators or first responders – were not entitled to overtime pay. The court found that the captains were in fact entitled to time-and-a-half wages when working overtime despite their high rank and pay level. (Keep in mind that pay or being salaried alone cannot disqualify an employee from overtime pay.)
It is believed this ruling may cause the flood gates to open. The attorneys we work with suspect other lawsuits can be filed, but first need to speak with current and former fire captains and investigators to determine which departments, if any, are breaking wage and hour laws.
What Does the Law Say About Fire Captains and Overtime?
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets out a number of “exemptions” that outline which workers are entitled to overtime pay and which ones are not. Employees that may be excluded from overtime pay under these exemptions include doctors, lawyers, artists and CEOs.
The FLSA, however, specifically states that firefighters, first responders and similar employees are not exempt – and should therefore be earning overtime pay.
Some fire departments have argued that fire captains and investigators are still exempt from overtime pay despite this clause. They claim that fire captains and investigators – who often have several employees beneath them – are excluded from overtime under either the “executive” or “administrative” exemption. These are two of the general exemptions that could pertain to employees in any field.
The Executive Exemption
To be ineligible for overtime under this exemption, an employee, among other things, must manage the company – or a part of it – as a primary duty. It is believed, however, that most fire captains and investigators don’t fit this criterion because their primary duty is not management – despite the fact they may direct the work of other employees ranked below them.
Furthermore, fire captains and investigators usually don’t have the authority to discipline lower-ranking employees without the approval of someone above them, such as the fire chief. This authority is usually one held by exempt executives.
The Administrative Exemption
It is believed that fire captains and investigators don’t fit the administrative exemption either – again, particularly in light of the clause that excludes firefighters, first responders and similar employees from overtime exemptions.
Like the executive exemption, exempt “administrators” must perform work directly related to management or general business operations. In 2016, the appeals court found that this exemption does not apply to fire captains/investigators.
What Could I Get from an Overtime Lawsuit?
A lawsuit could help fire captains and investigators recover up to three years of unpaid overtime wages. Furthermore, it could help serve as a warning to other departments across the country and help ensure employees are paid properly in the future.