Providence Firefighters Approve Overtime Settlement, Costing the City more than $9 million in Total

Providence firefighters have accepted the city’s offer of $5.9 million to settle numerous grievances and lawsuits dating back to 2013 over the way the city paid firefighters. There are several different components to the settlement. Here are a few of the highlights.

The settlement resolves a lawsuit originally filed in 2013, which alleged the city failed to pay overtime to firefighters as required by the FLSA. The settlement also resolves a second lawsuit and numerous grievances filed by firefighters after the city unilaterally changed the fire department platoon structure in 2015. Here is more from Curt Varone’s Fire Law Blog on that story.

The Details

The settlement includes approximately $2.8 million to settle claims related to the 2015 fire department “reorganization.” As part of this reorganization, the city unilaterally moved firefighters from a 4-platoon, 42-hour workweek to a 3-platoon, 56-hour workweek. The city and firefighters have since agreed to “un-reorganize” the fire department, returning firefighting personnel to a 4-platoon, 42-hours-per-week structure.

The settlement also includes more than $3 million for FLSA violations. The firefighters made several claims in the FLSA suit. First, the city failed to include longevity in firefighters’ regular rate of pay, in violation of the FLSA. Second, the city failed to pay any FLSA overtime following the unilateral platoon change in 2015. Additionally, the city is responsible for paying the union’s attorneys’ fees related to the FLSA claims.

Next, when the city unilaterally moved firefighters from 4 to 3 platoons (increasing a firefighter’s average work week by 14 hours) the city increased the firefighters’ base pay by 8 percent. Even with this increase in base pay, firefighters’ hourly wages were significantly reduced due to the additional 14 hours per week they were required to work. The 8 percent “over-base” pay (which was not required under the terms of the firefighters’ contract) cost the city an estimated $3 million plus during the short-lived “reorganization” period.

When you factor this additional $3 million plus payment already made to firefighters, the total cost of the settlement is over $9 million for the city not including the money the city must pay the union’s attorneys! 

Finally, In addition to paying the firefighters close to $6 million in back wages, plus more than $3 million in “over-base” payments during the “reorganization,” attorneys’ fees for both sides, the settlement also allocates an additional 64 hours of paid leave for each firefighter to use in the future. . .

While regular rate, past FLSA settlements, and fire department platoon structure are among the many topics discussed in depth at all the upcoming FLSA for Fire Departments seminars, the Providence settlement will certainly be a heavily discussed topic in May of 2018, when FLSA for Fire Departments is brought to Rhode Island. Please consider joining us.

More on the story from WPRI

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