Attorneys working with ClassAction.org would like to speak with fire captains and investigators about how they’re being paid. The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you work – or have worked – as a fire captain or investigator and weren’t paid overtime, fill out the form on this page. After you get in touch, one of the attorneys we work with may reach out to you directly. He or she can explain your rights, why you may be owed back wages and what the next steps are. It doesn’t cost anything to talk to an attorney – and you’re never obligated to take legal action simply for getting in touch. Plus, federal law sets strict rules for employers subject to wage and hour investigations: they are prohibited from firing or otherwise retaliating against employees who speak up about possible violations in the workplace.
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ClassAction.org is a group of online professionals (designers, programmers and writers) with years of experience in the legal industry. We work closely with class action and mass tort attorneys across the country and help with investigations into corporate wrongdoing.