A former emergency dispatcher for the City of Jonesboro, Arkansas has filed a federal lawsuit alleging the city of Jonesboro violated both the FLSA and Arkansas state law. The lawsuit was filed by Laura Trullinger on behalf of herself and other similarly situated individuals [i.e., other city workers] in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, earlier this month. Trullinger makes two basic FLSA related allegations in the complaint. First, the City of Jonesboro failed to include shift differentials in her and other emergency dispatchers’ regular rate of pay in violation of the FLSA. Second, the city failed to provide FLSA compensatory time at a rate of at least 1.5 hours of comp time for every hour of overtime owed.
The FLSA requires virtually all the money an employee receives from his or her employer included in that employee’s regular rate of pay. Regular rate violations continue to be the number one allegation in FLSA lawsuits involving firefighters and other emergency service workers. Very often employers mistakenly believe an employee’s base rate or contract rate is also the employee’s regular rate. It is not. The FLSA requires that an employee’s regular rate include all remuneration received by the employee. As a general rule, this includes additional compensation for such things as shift differentials, hazardous duty pay, working out of step/grade, longevity, and even opting out of employee sponsored health insurance. Failure to include all remuneration in an employee’s regular rate will result in shorting that employee’s overtime rate.
Additionally, the FLSA allows public agency employers, like the City of Jonesboro to provide FLSA compensatory time (comp time) in lieu of FLSA overtime provided certain requirements are satisfied. One of the key requirements of FLSA comp time is the rate of accrual. Employers that opt to provide FLSA comp time in lieu of FLSA overtime must provide employees with at least 1.5 hours of FLSA comp time for every hour or FLSA overtime owed. This makes sense, since the employee is owed overtime which must be paid at a rate of at least 1.5 times that employee’s regular rate of pay. To allow employers to provide employees less that 1.5 hours of comp time in lieu of receiving FLSA overtime would violate the FLSA’s basic overtime provisions.
If Trullinger’s allegations are proven, the city will likely owe her and possibly other city employee’s back wages, liquidated damages, and attorneys’ fees. Here is a copy of the complaint.