FLSA + Promotional Exam Question = Confusion

Today’s FLSA Question

I attended one of your Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for Fire Departments seminars last year. I learned a great deal about the FLSA over those three days. However, I just took a promotional examination for deputy chief within my fire department and found the following question:

Which of the following must be true in order for a firefighter/EMT to be eligible for overtime?
      A.) Employed by a fire department
      B.) Trained in fire suppression
      C.) Neither A nor B
      D.) Both A & B

Did I miss something in the seminar . . . ? Aren’t all firefighter/EMTs eligible for overtime unless they meet a specific exemption? Does that mean that a firefighter/EMT who is not trained in fire suppression is exempt from overtime? What about a firefighter/EMT who does not work for a fire department? Help!

First, thank you for paying attention in class!

Second, is it too late for the city to get a refund from that testing company?

You are correct. The default rule is that all employees, including firefighters, are eligible for FLSA overtime. Some firefighters and senior administrative officers can be exempt from FLSA overtime if they meet specific criteria as determined by the FLSA and Department of Labor (DOL). That determination can only be made following a thorough examination of both the FLSA and DOL requirements in conjunction with the duties performed and salary paid to these higher-ranking firefighters. Not the type of analysis you can typically perform through a multiple-choice question.

Next, employees engaged in “fire protection activities,” including many firefighters, may be partially exempt from overtime under section §207(k) of the FLSA. This partial exemption increases the number of hours a firefighter works before he or she is eligible for overtime, and allows public agency fire departments to adopt work periods up to 28 days. However, this is not a complete overtime exemption. These firefighters are still be eligible for overtime.

Congress and the DOL have established requirements for fire departments that want to utilize the §207(k) partial exemption. Two of those requirements are that the firefighters must be trained, and that the fire department must be a public agency. Therefore, firefighters who are not trained and fire departments that are not public agencies cannot utilize §207(k). These distinctions do not make non-§207(k) firefighters overtime exempt! In fact, most likely these non-§207(k) firefighters would be eligible for more overtime than their §207(k) counterparts.

Now, back to your question. BTW, what an awful question . . . The only sense I can make out of this question is that the test preparer was trying to test your knowledge of the §207(k) partial exemption. Only it appears your knowledge was much greater than the test preparer’s!

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