The Borrego Springs Fire Protection District (District) is the latest California fire department facing an FLSA lawsuit. A group of seventeen firefighters filed the suit last month, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, alleging the district failed to include all remuneration in the firefighters’ regular rate of pay. Specifically, the firefighters allege the district did not include money paid directly to firefighters in lieu of employer sponsored medical benefits, paramedic certification, and holiday in lieu pay in their regular rate of pay.
The FLSA requires “all remuneration for employment paid to, or on behalf of, the employee” included in an employee’s regular rate of pay. Failure to include all remuneration in an employee’s regular rate will lead to shorting that employee’s overtime rate.
Employers often mistakenly believe an employee’s hourly rate set in a labor agreement or city policy is automatically the employee’s regular rate for FLSA purposes. However, the FLSA requires the regular rate to be based upon “actual facts” and not simply an agreement of the parties.
Allegations of improperly calculating the regular rate continue to be the leading cause of FLSA lawsuits in the fire service today. Fire departments must remain vigilant in properly calculating firefighters’ regular rate to avoid this common yet avoidable lawsuit. Here is a copy of the firefighters’ complaint.