Today’s FLSA Question: Can a fire department’s collective bargaining agreement limit the amount of FLSA compensatory time (comp time) a firefighter can accrue to only 240 hours? The current contract allows firefighters to accrue up to 480 hours of FLSA comp time. A new city administrator wants to negotiate with the firefighter’s union in an effort to lower the city’s potential financial liability. Does the FLSA allow parties agree to a lower maximum comp time accrual?
Answer: Yes. The FLSA and Department of Labor (DOL) regulations would allow such a limitation. The FLSA allows public agency employers (fire departments) provide FLSA comp time in lieu of FLSA overtime provided to employees provided that certain requirements are satisfied. One of the key FLSA comp time requirements relates to the maximum number of comp time hours an employee is allowed to accrue. Firefighters and other employees engaged in public safety and emergency response activities can accrue up to a maximum of 480 hours of FLSA comp time. Once the 480-maximum cap is reached, that employee can no longer receive comp time in lieu of FLSA overtime.
Nothing in the FLSA or DOL regulations prohibits a public agency fire department from reaching an agreement with firefighters limiting the maximum comp time accrual to less than the 480-hour maximum. However, it would violate both the FLSA and DOL regulations if a fire department increased the maximum number of accrued FLSA comp time hours above the 480-hour maximum. Employers need to carefully monitor an employee’s comp time accruals to avoid such a circumstance.
As an aside, the 480-hour maximum FLSA comp time accrual only applies to public agency employees that are engaged in public safety, emergency response, or seasonal activities. All other public agency employees are subject to a lower 240-hour maximum comp time accrual.
Questions like this are common at all of our FLSA for Fire Departments Live Webinars. If you have questions like this, or any question related to how the FLSA impacts firefighters and other first responders, please consider joining us. The next session is only a month away.