My fire department recently initiated a new policy. The policy allows the department to adjust a firefighter’s schedule towards the end of the work period to avoid paying FLSA overtime. We work a 24/48 schedule. My scheduled work days are being cut from my schedule because I may have worked extra shifts earlier in the work period. Does the FLSA allow this? What if some of those extra shifts in the work period were mandated or ordered? Does that matter?
Adjusting a firefighter’s work schedule to avoid paying FLSA mandated overtime is permissible under the FLSA.
The FLSA requires overtime paid for all hours worked above the statutory maximum for each work period. A fire department that has adopted a 28-day work period must pay (non-exempt §207(k) firefighters) overtime for all hours worked over 212. Theoretically, a fire department could adjust a firefighter’s schedule to always stay under 212 hours. This would eliminate the need for any FLSA overtime. A firefighter’s individual schedule is outside the scope of the FLSA. There may be collective bargaining restrictions or even state laws that do not allow for this practice but nothing in the FLSA prohibits it.
Finally, while it may seem demoralizing, whether the firefighter was mandated or ordered to work extra shifts is not a factor in earning FLSA overtime.