Today’s FLSA Question: I am a paid municipal firefighter for a small fire department. When our firefighters utilize vacation, sick, or personal leave, the city deducts this time from the firefighter’s hours worked for FLSA overtime purposes. However, a neighboring community’s fire department counts all scheduled hours for overtime purposes. Basically, the firefighters in that town receive overtime every payday even when the firefighter is not working due to vacation or sick leave. Our chief has asked our town administrators about this practice and they insist we are following the law… Does that mean the other town is not? Help!
Answer: First and foremost, there is nothing wrong with employers paying employees, including firefighters more than is required by the FLSA. When you boil it down to the basics, the FLSA only requires employers pay employees the federal minimum wage and overtime after working more than the maximum hours for each workweek—or for firefighters—work period. When employers choose to pay employees more than the federal or state minimum wage, they are simply exceeding what is required by the law. There is nothing wrong with one community or organization providing more enhanced wage and hour benefits for its employees. On the flip side, there is also nothing wrong with an employer simply providing what the FLSA mandates.
It is not surprising to hear your neighboring community has opted to count paid leave utilized by firefighters as hours worked for overtime purposes. This is a relatively common practice for some firefighters in different areas of the country. Typically, this practice is the result of collective bargaining, local statutes, or city/town policy. Navigating the FLSA can prove challenging, however navigating the FLSA in conjunction with collective bargaining requirements, local wage and hour laws, and the many special firefighter-only rules found within the Act and the various Department of Labor regulations can prove down-right treacherous. It is important for anybody that is responsible for paying, managing, or negotiating on behalf of firefighters or their employers have a thorough understanding of these types of questions.
Do you have questions about the FLSA? If yes, please consider attending one of our upcoming FLSA for Fire Departments seminars.
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