On September 12, 2018, six Battalion Chiefs (BCs) from the Greater Naples Fire Rescue District (district) filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking overtime pay. According to the complaint, the district classifies the BCs as white collar overtime-exempt employees. The BCs estimate that each is owed approximately $60,000 in unpaid overtime wages for the past 3 years. Additionally, the complaint alleges the district retaliated against one of the complaining BCs after he announced his intentions to seek overtime pay.
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Here are some relevant portions from the complaint:
Statement of Facts Related to Job Duties
• Within the last three years, and continuing to date, while working on behalf of the District, the Plaintiffs’ primary job duty has been, and remains, to protect and serve the public by engaging in fire suppression and related activities.
• Plaintiffs’ principal duties are the direct, on-site suppression of fires.
• Plaintiffs’ primary job duty is emergency response.
• When an emergency call comes in, it takes priority.
• The Plaintiffs do not have discretion to decline to respond.
• The Plaintiffs are required to respond to all fire calls within the geographic boundaries of the Fire District.
• While on the scene of fire calls, the Plaintiffs, along-side their crew and facing the same hazards and danger, engage in the control, suppression, and extinguishment of fires and the rescue of fire or accident victims.
• The Plaintiffs are part of the Fire District’s emergency response analog of units automatically dispatched to certain calls where they go into a fire scene to determine whether there are any safety issues that might be present (i.e., endangered or trapped occupants, hazardous materials/substances, property exposures, gas levels, the structural integrity of the fire scene, etc.), to ensure the safety and security of the employees engaging in fire suppression activities.
• The Plaintiffs undergo training to hone front line firefighting duties, which is the same training as all other firefighters so that they are able to fulfill their first responder obligations and assure a constant state of preparedness training.
• The Plaintiffs are not high-level fire officials contemplated as exempt as they lack the discretion to determine whether and where their assistance is needed.
• Whatever the precise importance of the Plaintiffs’ non-firefighting duties; e.g. filling out evaluations, department reports, and/or station policies, fighting fires and emergency response is the more important part of their jobs.
• Plaintiffs, like non-exempt employees of for the District, work continuous, rotating, 24-hour shifts, 7 days per week, with 48 hours of leave between shifts; in contrast to the 8 hour per day, Monday through Friday shifts that the administrative and executive personnel work in the administrative offices.
• The Plaintiffs are assigned to work, and in fact do work, a regular and recurrent schedule of 24 hours on-duty, followed by 48 hours off-duty, which results in their working, on average 56 hours per week, and either 216 hours or 240 hours every 28 days.
• The Plaintiffs are therefore regularly assigned to work, and do work, in excess of 53 hours per week and 212 hours in a 28-day period.
This complaint is only the latest in a series of disputes across the country regarding Battalion Chiefs and the FLSA. For more on that click here.
Here is a copy of the complaint.