Firefighter Shift Transfers and the FLSA

Today’s FLSA Question: I am a full-time firefighter in a midsize city. We work a 24/48 schedule with a 56-hour average workweek. We utilize a 14-day work period. Currently, I am assigned to B platoon. I am being transferred to C platoon, effective this Sunday. This means that I will be required to work my last 24-hour shift on B platoon this Saturday, and then immediately work another 24-hour shift on C platoon on Sunday. Does the FLSA allow for this type of transition? If yes, shouldn’t I at least receive overtime for the second shift?

Nothing in the FLSA or the Department of Labor (DOL) regulations prohibits an employer from scheduling an employee for back-to-back shifts—even if those back-to-back shifts are 24 hours in length. As an extreme hypothetical example, your fire department could require you to work 106 hours straight, or even 212 continuous hours, without the legal requirement to pay any FLSA overtime.

Whether you should receive overtime for the second shift requires a bit more information. Given your specific facts, the FLSA requires only that you be paid overtime for all hours worked over 106 in each 14-day work period. If this extra shift puts your hours worked for the work period over 106, then you are most likely owed some FLSA overtime.

There may be local laws or collective bargaining requirements that limit the ability of employers to change or modify your schedule without notice. However, nothing in the FLSA or DOL regulations dictate how work hours need to be scheduled.

When a firefighter is transferred from one shift (or group) to another, it is often advisable to make the transfer at the beginning of a new work period. This may not always be an option. However, when it is, it can help make life a little easier for all involved.

Typically, all firefighters on each shift are scheduled to work the same number of hours each work period. Making a shift transfer at the start of a new work period maintains this consistency. Additionally, this can make record keeping and time tracking easier. This practice will also prevent a disproportionate number of FLSA overtime hours for the transferred firefighter.

Again, there is no requirement to make such a transfer at the beginning of a work period, and there may certainly be times when this is not possible. It is just best practice to start at the beginning of a work period when doing so is an option. This is just one of many “Best FLSA for Fire Dept. Practices” that we discuss in depth at all our upcoming FLSA for Fire Department seminars.

The next one is scheduled for May 8‒10, 2018 in Minneapolis, MN. Seats are still available. Please consider joining us.

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