Shift Trades and Fire Department Recordkeeping Likely to Play A Crucial Role in Former Firefighter’s Discrimination and Harassment Lawsuit

The Kansas City, Kansas Fire Department is facing a harassment and discrimination lawsuit filed by a former city firefighter. The lawsuit, brought by former firefighter Jyan Harris in 2018, alleges the city improperly fired him in for “double-dipping” on several occasions in 2015. Harris’s trial began last Thursday, and early indications show that the Kansas City Fire Department’s recordkeeping practices will likely play a prominent role in the trial.

According to The Kansas City Star, Harris worked two jobs in the summer of 2015. Harris’s primary job was working as a firefighter for the Kansas City Fire Department. However, Harris also worked for a youth summer camp run by the Wyandotte County Parks and Recreation Department at the same time. City officials testified this past week that an investigation into Harris’s work activities found several instances where “it appeared Harris worked and was paid for a shift as a firefighter on days that he was also paid for hours worked as a parks employee, which would place him at two places at one time.” According to city human resource officials, the investigation also revealed one instance where Harris called in sick from the fire department and instead clocked hours and worked with the parks department on the same day. In response to these findings, the city suspended and ultimately terminated Harris.

Harris’s attorney, Katherine Myers, raised the question of whether Harris had obtained shift trades on the days in question. In particular, Myers “peppered” the city’s HR manager during testimony last week about the fire department’s recordkeeping practices related to shift trades. Specifically, Harris’s attorney asked whether city HR inquired with the fire department whether Harris had used shift trades on the days he was alleged to have “double-dipped” prior to terminating his employment. According to The Kansas City Star, trial testimony from one retired fire department official revealed that time trade slips were often thrown away and that time trade records were “hit and miss.”

Surprisingly, the FLSA does not require that records be kept of shift substitutions. However, best practices require that fire departments keep accurate records of all substitutions (shift trades) for a variety of other purposes. Regardless of the outcome of Harris’s lawsuit, this case serves as a good reminder of the importance of good fire department recordkeeping. Good recordkeeping is vital to defending, not only wage and hour claims, but other potential liabilities and claims.

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