Several current and former civilian emergency (911) dispatchers from Evanston, Illinois have filed a lawsuit alleging the City of Evanston failed to pay them overtime as required by both federal and state law. The dispatchers allege, in a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on April 4, that the city has a practice of paying dispatchers straight time pay for all scheduled hours worked regardless of actual number of hours worked in a week. The FLSA requires non-exempt employees receive overtime pay after working more than forty hours in a single week.
Here, the dispatchers’ claim that they are scheduled to work an average of 84 hours every two weeks. The dispatchers’ normal schedule consists of static 12-hour work shifts followed by a set number of days off in a rotating pattern. Specifically, the dispatchers are scheduled to work 12-hour work shifts in the following pattern: 2 days on, followed by 2 days off, 3 days on, followed by 2 days off, 2 days on followed by three days off. According to the dispatchers, this rotation can create instances where the dispatchers work (based on their schedule) as many as 60 hours in one week and as few as 24 hours in the following week. If proven, failing to pay dispatchers any overtime during the 60-hour workweek would be a violation of the FLSA. The FLSA does not allow employers to average the hours worked by non-exempt employees from week to week.
The dispatchers also allege that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) investigated the city’s 911 telecommunication department in December 2021. According to the dispatcher’s complaint, that investigation revealed the city’s straight time only pay practice violated the FLSA during the workweeks that dispatchers worked more than forty hours. As a result, the city notified dispatchers that it was changing its pay practices moving forward, however the dispatchers claim the city has yet to provide any back wages for the time they were denied federally mandated overtime.
According to Evanston Now, the city could face up to $1.5 million in back wages and damages if the more eligible dispatchers join the lawsuit and the court finds the city’s actions to be willful.
For more on the lawsuit from Evanston Now, click here.