Four Florida Firefighters File FLSA Suit for Unpaid Training Time

A group of four former Destin, Florida firefighters filed an FLSA lawsuit earlier this week alleging that their former employer, The Destin Fire Control District [District] failed to pay them for hours spent attending work-related training. Former Destin firefighters David Garner, Brian Ostos, Alejandro Osorio, and Joseph Quinn filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida on November 9, 2021.

The FLSA requires employers pay employees for the time spent participating in job-related training activities subject to only a couple of very limited exceptions. Here, the plaintiffs allege that their former employer failed to count the time they spent on their scheduled days off attending mandatory job-related training as compensable worktime in violation of the FLSA. As a result, the four claim that they were shorted straight time and overtime pay.

Here is more from their complaint:

  • During the material time period Plaintiffs were employed as firefighters, Emergency Medical Technicians, water rescue personnel and similar positions and performed services as same on behalf of the Defendant. Plaintiff David Garner was employed by Defendant from on, or about, September 14, 2020 through June 22, 2021. Plaintiff Brian Ostos was employed by Defendant from on, or about, September 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. Plaintiff Alejandro Osorio was employed by Defendant from on, or about, December 29, 2020 through July 29, 2021. Plaintiff Joseph Quinn was employed by Defendant from on, or about, August 20, 2020 through October 31, 2021.
  • During the material time period Plaintiffs were paid on an hourly basis as set forth in the collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) and also paid fixed compensation per pay period for having certain credentials such as being an “Open Water Rescuer.” This payment is called an “Incentive” under the CBA.
  • Plaintiffs were licensed to work as firefighters by the State of Florida at the time they were hired by Defendant. This license allowed Plaintiffs to fight fires, use the “jaws of life” to extract people from damaged vehicles, use ropes to perform their jobs, and work in confined spaces, among other tasks. Plaintiffs were periodically required and directed to participate in training programs to enhance their skills to perform their jobs with Defendant. This training, however, was not mandated by the State of Florida to perform their jobs. This training was mandated by the CBA. These training programs typically took place during normal business hours and the cost of the training was paid for by Defendant. Plaintiffs would be paid for their time attending these training programs if they fell on days they were scheduled to work. If the training program fell on a day they were not scheduled to work, they would receive no additional pay for attending the program.
  • Plaintiffs did not perform any productive work while attending these training sessions. Failure to participate in these training programs could result in Plaintiffs’ termination from employment with Defendant. These training programs were selected and scheduled by Defendant. These training programs were not run by independent bona fide institutions of learning; but rather contractors who were hired by Defendant to provide the training. These trainers would typically travel to the Destin, Florida area to specifically provide training at the request of Defendant.
  • Plaintiffs were not paid for the time they attended mandatory training sessions when these sessions took place on days they were not otherwise scheduled to work. As a result, this time spent in training sessions was not included in the overtime pay calculation and Defendant underpaid the overtime pay due in these pay periods. Such failure to include time spent in these training sessions in the overtime pay calculation is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. If the training took place on a day the Plaintiffs were scheduled to work, they would receive pay while attending training.
  • Defendant failed to keep accurate time records of all the hours worked by Plaintiffs in violation of 29 CFR §516 because the time spent in mandatory training sessions on days Plaintiff was not scheduled to work was not accurately recorded.

Here is a copy of the complaint.

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