A lawyer representing a group of Blytheville, Arkansas firefighters is gearing up to sue the City of Blytheville for unpaid wages. According to NewsChannel 3, the lawyer sent a “demand letter” to city officials indicating the intent to file an FLSA lawsuit over a city policy that requires city firefighters be on-call 24-hours per day, seven days per week in the event of an emergency. The attorney claims the city’s policy is “restrictive and prevents firefighters from having normal lives.”
It is not always easy to determine when uncompensated on-call time turns into compensable work time. Most courts and the Department of Labor (DOL) look to the degree of control that the employer places on the individual employees during the on-call periods to reach this determination. Understandably, the more control exerted by the employer, the more likely the on-call time will need to be compensated. Policies that require large number of employees be on-call 24/7 with frequent call-backs combined with rigid response requirements (i.e. prescribed time frame to report back to station, discipline if late or unable to respond back, etc.) would likely run afoul of the FLSA.
Here is more on the story from NewsChannel 3 in Memphis: