The Livingston Parish Fire Protection District 5, in Denham Springs, Louisiana is facing an FLSA lawsuit filed by a former fire district employee. Former Livingston Parish Captain Brian Jackson filed the lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. Jackson’s complaint contains two basic allegations. First, the district failed to pay Jackson and other unnamed “similarly situated employees” overtime for working more than 106 hours every 14-day work period. Second, the complaint also alleges the district failed to include monthly supplemental pay that was required by Louisiana law, in Jackson’s regular rate of pay.
Most of Jackson’s complaint is dedicated to undermining the district’s most likely defense; that Jackson was an overtime exempt “white-collar” employee. Whether Jackson met the requirements necessary to meet any of the FLSA’s “white-collar” overtime exemptions will depend on the specific facts. Department of Labor regulations prohibit employers from classifying “first responders” as overtime exempt “white-collar” employees regardless of their rank or pay level. Whether Jackson’s primary duty was acting as a first responder, or a high-level executive employee will most likely determine his FLSA overtime eligibility.
Most notably, Jackson’s complaint attempts to establish that Jackson was not paid a salary (as is required by the FLSA’s “white-collar” overtime exemptions) and that his primary duty was administering medical care, operating fire apparatus, directing hose streams, search and rescue, forcible entry, and locating and rescuing victims. If Jackson can prove that he was not paid on a salary basis, or that his primary duty was acting as a “first responder” the district cannot classify him as an overtime exempt “white-collar” employee.
For those folks that have been through the FLSA for Fire Departments 24-hour class, or the Advanced FLSA Executive Exemption webinar, you should be able recognize the importance of the following allegations found in Jackson’s complaint:
- Plaintiff was employed by Defendant as a firefighter and given the job title of “Captain” from approximately 2014 to February 6, 2022.
- Plaintiff was an hourly employee and was paid between $18.25 and $19.75 per hour within the last three years.
- In addition, Plaintiff and other similarly situated firefighters were paid extra compensation in the form of mandatory, non-discretionary supplemental pay pursuant to LSA R.S. 40:1666.1. Plaintiff received $500 per month in supplemental pay.
- Plaintiff was only paid for the hours he actually worked. If Plaintiff missed time from work, his pay was reduced or he was required to use vacation pay or paid time off. Plaintiff was not paid on a salary basis.
- Plaintiff’s job duties included responding to fire alarms and engaging in front line fire fighting activities. Plaintiff and all other similarly situated firefighters were engaged in fire protection activities as that phrase is defined in 29 U.S.C. §203(y) and 29 C.F.R. §541.3.
- Plaintiff and all other similarly situated firefighters are not exempt from the overtime requirements of the FLSA pursuant to 29 C.F.R. §541.3(b), and thus are all eligible for overtime pay.
- Plaintiff was also required to administer emergency medical care to the sick or injured, provide advanced life support services and administer medications at an emergency scene.
- Plaintiff was also required to use appropriate fire extinguishers to contain fires, apply appropriate fire streams and agents for the most effective fire extinguishment, use appropriate tools and proper techniques, perform search and rescue and forcible entry operations in order to locate and remove trapped victims from endangered spaces during the fire.
- Plaintiff was also required to drive, operate and inspect fire apparatus, drive emergency medical vehicles to and from the scene of a fire or other emergencies.
- Other firefighters had the same or similar job duties as Plaintiff.
- While Plaintiff could, at times, direct the work of other firefighters or rescue personnel at the scene of a call to which he responded, Plaintiff’s fire extinguishment and treatment and rescue of victims was, as described above, his primary duty.
We will be keeping a close eye on this one as it develops.
Here is a copy of the complaint.