Today’s FLSA Question: Is a fire department required to pay firefighters for time spent off-duty attending mandatory paramedic training?
Answer: As a general rule all mandatory job-related training is compensable. One would think that mandatory paramedic training would fall within this category of compensable training. However, as most regular readers of FirefighterOvertime.org are likely aware the FLSA and Department of Labor (DOL) regulations contain numerous exceptions to the general rule(s). One such exception can be found at 29 C.F.R. §553.226 of the DOL regulations. This unique public agency only exception allows some fire departments—under certain circumstances—to avoid having to pay firefighters for time spent off-duty participating in employer mandated paramedic training.
Perhaps the most well-known court decision applying this training exception to firefighter/paramedics involved a group of firefighters from Memphis, Tennessee. These firefighters were required to receive paramedic certification as a condition of continued employment. But, here is the catch. The city did not compensate these firefighters for the approximately 2,000 hours required to receive this certification.
A large group of firefighters filed an FLSA lawsuit in 2010 seeking compensation for this time. Although several hundred firefighters ultimately participated in the suit, the named plaintiff was Memphis Firefighter Jon Misewicz. My friend and colleague Curt Varone recently had an opportunity to discuss this lawsuit and the many implications it created with Jon. Curt posted the interview on his Fire Law Blog. If you have not already done so, you should check it out.