The Village of Villa Park, Illinois, is being sued by a former firefighter for alleged FLSA violations. Brandon Santiago filed the lawsuit on behalf of himself and other “similarly situated” firefighters, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois last week. Santiago claims the village failed to include various wage augments in his and other firefighters regular rate of pay for FLSA overtime purposes. The FLSA requires virtually all remuneration paid to an employee included in the regular rate.
In particular, Santiago claims the village failed to include holiday pay and sick leave buy-back pay in his regular rate of pay. Additionally, Santiago alleges the village also failed to include longevity pay and acting out-of-rank pay in other firefighters’ regular rate of pay. Since all FLSA overtime must be at least time and one-half of a firefighters’ regular rate, failure to include these common wage augments in the regular rate results in firefighters being shortchanged on their overtime rate.
Many collective bargaining agreements and municipal pay ordinances prescribe base hourly pay rates for firefighters. These base rates often do not include wage augments. The contractual base rate cannot serve as substitute for a firefighter’s regular rate. Firefighters cannot bargain away their FLSA rights.
Here are some relevant portions of Santiago’s well-written complaint:
- Villa Park employed Santiago and other Firefighters to provide fire and emergency medical service protection on 24-hour shifts.
- Villa Park scheduled Santiago and the other Firefighters to work 24-hours on duty and 48- hours off duty.
- Villa Park instituted a 21-day FLSA work period for Santiago and the other Firefighters.
- Under the FLSA, for employees engaged in fire protection, work exceeding 159 hours in a 21-day work period must be paid at one and one-half times the regular rate.
- During the relevant time period, Santiago and the other Firefighters worked over 159 hours in a 21-day work period.
- When Santiago and the Firefighters worked every scheduled shift in a 21-day work period, they worked at least 168 hours.
- Villa Park did not pay Santiago and other firefighters one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for the scheduled hours worked over 159 hours in the 21-day work periods.
- During the relevant time period, Santiago and other firefighters occasionally also worked an extra shift on their scheduled days off duty.
- When Santiago or the other Firefighters worked an extra shift on their day off duty, Villa Park paid them at a rate of one and one-half times their base hourly rate.
- When calculating overtime rates for Santiago and other Firefighters, Villa Park failed to include all remuneration as required under the FLSA.
IN LIEU PAY
- Villa Park failed to include annual lump sum payments made in lieu of holiday pay in the overtime rate.
- Villa Park paid Santiago and the other Firefighters an annual lump-sum payment that was made in lieu of holiday pay (“In Lieu Pay”).
- Villa Park did not give Santiago or the other Firefighters scheduled duty days off work due to a holiday.
- Villa Park paid Santiago and the Firefighters the annual lump-sum In Lieu Pay regardless of whether they worked on the holiday or not.
- Villa Park did not include the In Lieu Pay in the FLSA regular rate for overtime for Santiago or the Firefighters.
SICK LEAVE BUY-BACK
- Upon termination, Villa Park paid Santiago $2,378.40 for unused Sick Leave.
- Villa Park did not include the unused sick leave in the FLSA regular rate for overtime for Santiago.
- Villa Park paid some Firefighters annual lump-sum longevity pay payments (“Longevity Pay”).
- Villa Park did not include the Longevity Pay in the FLSA regular rate for overtime for any Firefighters.
- Villa Park paid some Firefighters additional pay for acting in a higher rank (“Acting Pay”).
- Villa Park did not include acting pay in the FLSA regular rate for overtime for any Firefighters.
Santiago is seeking owed back wages for the past three years, an equal amount of liquidated damages, and attorney fees for himself and other “similarly situated” firefighters that may also deserve damages.
It is imperative that fire departments remain vigilant regarding FLSA compliance. Is your department including all remuneration in firefighters’ regular rate of pay?
The regular rate is one of many topics covered in-depth at all of our upcoming FLSA for Fire Departments seminars. Please consider joining us.
Here is a copy of the complaint.