California City Settles FLSA Suit Filed by Firefighters

Cathedral City, California, has settled a lawsuit filed by 47 current and former firefighters that alleged the city failed to pay them overtime as required by the FLSA. The lawsuit, which was filed on March 19, 2019, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, contained allegations the city failed to include all remuneration in the firefighters’ regular rate of pay. Specifically, the firefighters claimed the city failed to include extra money paid to firefighters for being bilingual, acting out of rank, possessing advanced educational degrees, as well as “holiday in lieu pay” in their regular rate of pay.  

It is not uncommon for employers to fail to include bonuses and additional compensation paid above and beyond an employee’s base hourly rate in their regular rate of pay.  However, the FLSA requires virtually all the money an employee receives from his or her employer, not just the negotiated or contractual base pay rate, included in the regular rate of pay. As a general rule, failure to include bonuses, stipends, and additional compensation in an employee’s regular rate of pay will result in shorting that employee’s overtime rate. For more on the initial suit, including a copy of the complaint, click here.

The settlement calls for the city to pay a total of $150,000 to settle the suit. The 47 plaintiff firefighters will receive $112,500. Additionally, the city will pay the firefighters’ attorneys’ fees and costs in the amount of $37,500. Here is a copy of the court’s approval of the settlement filed on January 19, 2021.

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