For the second time in three years current and former Augusta-Richmond County firefighters have filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of Georgia claiming the county violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The firefighters claim the county failed to include EMT stipends in firefighter’s regular rate of pay.
Determining the proper regular rate can be challenging at times and improperly calculating the regular rate is a very common FLSA violation. However, Augusta-Richmond County settled an FLSA law suit with a group of county firefighters that alleged the same exact violations less than seven months ago.
In both law suits, Augusta-Richmond County firefighters claim they receive stipends ranging from $1,200 to $1,800 per year for being certified as either an EMT basic or paramedic. The firefighters also claim the county failed to include this stipend in the regular rate of pay for overtime purposes since 2010. The FLSA requires virtually all “remuneration” paid to an employee be included in the regular rate. Additional money provided to firefighters for advanced educational degrees, certifications, and other special qualifications need to be included in the regular rate.
The original law suit was filed in 2014. The county settled with the seventy-seven firefighters in that original suit for more than $90,000 in March of 2017. That settlement included backed wages, liquidated damages, compensatory damages, and attorney fees for the firefighters. Now on August 28, 2017 an additional sixty plus firefighters (that were not part of the original law suit) have filed a second law suit making the exact same allegations.
If the firefighters claims are proven to be true, it will be hard to imagine how the county will be able to defend its actions. We will have to see how this one develops.
There are a few relevant documents below and a link Curt Varone’s original Fire Law Blog post on the story from 2014.