The City of Gloversville, New York, has agreed to pay city firefighters a total of $250,000 for alleged violations of the FLSA. According to The Daily Gazette, the city agreed to the settlement in an effort to “avoid more costly litigation with the [firefighters] union.”
City firefighters claimed the city’s compensatory (comp) time practices violated the FLSA. Comp time is a unique provision within the FLSA and Department of Labor (DOL) regulations that allow public agency employers to avoid paying overtime to some employees. Proper utilization of comp time can save employers significant amounts of money, however as is often the case with any special provision of the FLSA — the devil lies in the details.
Here the firefighters alleged the city provided comp time in lieu of paying overtime for firefighter training. While the FLSA and DOL regulations contain numerous requirements necessary for employers to properly utilize comp time; Gloversville firefighters seem to have only disputed the value and maximum accrual of the comp time hours.
The FLSA mandates one and one-half hours of comp time be provided for every hour of overtime owed. For example, if a firefighter is entitled to four hours of overtime and instead receives comp time in lieu of overtime, he or she must receive six hours of comp time.
The FLSA caps the maximum number of comp time hours a firefighter can accrue at 480. Once a firefighter accrues 480 hours of comp time, the fire department can no longer provide comp time in lieu of overtime. The firefighter must utilize comp time, to get below this 480 maximum, or receive overtime pay for any FLSA overtime owed.
In Gloversville, the firefighters questioned whether the city was adhering to these two critically important comp time requirements. Although the union has yet to approve the proposed settlement, union president Edward Martelle was quoted by the Daily Gazette as saying the settlement is a “a reasonable accommodation, one that helps the city, taxpayers and the firefighters” while avoiding “costly litigation.” The firefighters must still approve the settlement and there has been no comment from either side about how the $250,000 will be allocated among the unions 28 members.
Here is more on the story from the Daily Gazette.