Today’s FLSA Question: I am a fire chief for a mid-sized municipal fire department located in Texas. Myself and my assistant chief are enrolled in the FLSA class that you are offering on-line this week, however I have a quick question and I cannot wait until Tuesday for an answer. We just sent several of our firefighters to California to assist with the unprecedented wildfires there. It was brought to my attention that California has some very unusual wage and hour laws. I conducted a little on-line research and discovered California workers are entitled to time and one-half after working more than 8-hours in a day, double time after working more than 12 hours in a day, and that employers must give workers a dedicated meal break or pay a penalty. Will these California-only wage and hour laws apply to Texas firefighters?
Answer: Good question. You are correct. California has the most progressive wage and hour laws in the country. However, many of the wage and hour enhancements found within the California Labor Code—including the three that you reference—are not applicable to public agency employers. Therefore, these regulations will not impact your firefighters. California firefighters may receive enhanced overtime and/or dedicated meal breaks pursuant to collective bargaining agreements and/or municipal policy; however, it is not required under state law.
As you will learn in class later this week, the FLSA is a unique federal statute that sets the bare minimum for wage and hour requirements across the country. There is nothing within the FLSA that prevents individual states from mandating more enhanced wage and hour benefits for employees within that particular state. Additionally, collective bargaining may also provide enhanced rights and benefits to workers that are not required under either the federal or state law. It is extremely important for employers, like yourself, be familiar with both the FLSA and state wage and hour laws related to paying first responders.
If you have questions related to the FLSA and how it applies to firefighters and other emergency service workers, please consider joining us for one of the upcoming FLSA for Fire Departments live webinars. The next one is being offered this week! Click here for more information.