PA Firefighter Files FLSA Suit

A Pennsylvania firefighter is claiming that his employer failed to pay him and other similarly situated firefighters’ overtime as required by federal law. Keith Still, a firefighter for Manheim Township Fire and Rescue, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania filed the suit on July 13 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Still alleges the township’s pay practices related to its firefighters violate the FLSA.

According to the complaint, Manheim Township Fire and Rescue fails to pay firefighters overtime for all hours worked each work period. The complaint alleges the township pays firefighters bi-weekly. Every two-weeks firefighters are paid 106 hours of straight pay, and another 6 hours of overtime. However, due to the nature of the firefighters’ rotating work schedule, there are times when they work more than 112 hours in a two-week period. Still claims he and other firefighters are not being paid for these additional hours.

Here are some excerpts from the complaint:

  • Fire response services in Manheim are handled by Manheim Township Fire and Rescue (MTFR) through its three fire stations.
  • On or about November 2017, Plaintiff Still commenced employment with Defendant as a Full-Time Firefighter.
  • Defendant did not properly implement the § 207(k) partial exemption. Defendant attempted to elect the biweekly pay cycle (e.g., a 14-day pay cycle in which overtime must be paid in excess of 106 hours, 29 CFR § 553.230). On a biweekly basis, Defendant paid Full-Time Firefighters only the first six hours of overtime at the 150% rate (e.g., work hours 107-112), but failed to pay overtime hours in excess of 112, with the sole exception of overtime hours worked outside of one’s standard shifts.
  • Although Defendant kept track of overtime worked in excess of 112 hours per “biweek” as “Delayed Time,” both on time sheets and pay stubs, Defendant purposely refused to pay any wages at all for time worked as “Delayed Time.”
  • On multiple occasions, Plaintiff Still raised complaints with multiple constituents of Defendant concern[ing] its illegal overtime policy. Specifically, Plaintiff Still raised these complaints with Human Resource Director Steven Schlegel, as well as Fire Chief Richard Kane. Yet Defendant willfully disregard[ed] Plaintiff Still’s complaints.
  • Defendant is a sophisticated First-Class Township and has access to knowledgeable human resource specialists and competent labor counsel.
  • Defendant has acted willfully and with reckless disregard of clearly applicable FLSA provisions by failing to compensate Plaintiff and the FLSA Class for all hours worked, at an overtime rate (150% of regular hourly rate) for all hours worked in excess of the applicable maximum hours threshold for the applicable pay cycle. 29 U.S.C. §§ 207(k); 29 C.F.R. § 553.230.

This rather straight-forward complaint raises several important FLSA issues. First, in order to utilize the FLSA’s §207(k) partial overtime exemption, the employer (e.g., public agency fire department) must adopt a qualifying work period between 7 and 28 days. Here, what work period did the township adopt? How did they adopt it? Was it memorialized in either city policy, collective bargaining, or some other form? Best practice dictates that it should be.

Next, did the township maintain accurate work records for its firefighters? The FLSA requires comprehensive records of hours worked for all non-exempt employees, plus some additional records must be maintained for employers that claim the FLSA’s §207(k) partial overtime exemption. What records were maintained by the township? Failure to maintain work records as required by the FLSA can prove costly for employers.

Finally, what exactly is “Delayed Time”? Is this an attempt to provide compensatory time to township firefighters in lieu of overtime pay? If yes, that opens the door to a myriad of other potential issues related to FLSA comp time regulations and recordkeeping.

There are certainly more questions than answers at this point. We will keep you posted on the development of the suit. Here is a copy of the complaint.

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