A group of twenty-four current and former “District Chiefs” from the Orlando Fire Department have filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging the city misclassified them as overtime exempt employees in violation of the FLSA. This lawsuit is the latest in a series of similar lawsuits filed by high-ranking fire officers from across the country seeking overtime pay. Quoting from the complaint:
- Plaintiffs, and all others similarly situated, work or have worked for Defendant in the position of District Chief.
- The District Chiefs are represented by the Orlando Professional Fire Fighters, Local 1365, International Association of Firefighters (“Union” or “Local 1365”).
- The City and Local 1365 are parties to a collective bargaining agreement, with effective dates of October 1, 2022 through September 30, 2025 (“CBA”).
- The CBA covers “all full-time employees of the City of Orlando Fire Department in the classification of shift District Chief and excluding Fire Chief, Deputy Chiefs, Assistant Chiefs, District Chief – EMS, District Chief – Special Investigation Services Bureau, and all other City employees.”
- Pursuant to the CBA, District Chiefs are paid a yearly amount depending on their grade level.
- However, the CBA states that District Chiefs’ bi-weekly pay is calculated based on an hourly rate that is determined by “dividing the applicable salary by 2,080 for employees assigned to a forty (40) hour schedule and by 2,496 for those employees assigned to a forty-eight (48) hour schedule.”
- As such, upon information and belief, District Chiefs are paid on an hourly basis for the number of hours they actually work per week rather than on a salary basis.
- The CBA establishes the work schedule for combat and non-combat District Chiefs. For combat members, the workday shall be “twenty-four (24) hours starting at a time between 6:00 a.m. – 8:00 a.m. The workweek shall be scheduled with twenty-four (24) continuous hours on duty followed by forty-eight (48) continuous hours off duty with a Kelly Day (twenty-four (24) hours off duty) scheduled every eighth (8th) shift. Combat members shall be entitled to two (2) additional Kelly Days to be picked annually … thereby effectively reducing the workweek to forty-eight (48) hours per week for payroll purposes.”
- For non-combat District Chiefs, the hours of work are typically “forty (40) hours, Monday through Friday, with a one (1) hour unpaid daily lunch period. Length of shift and number of days may vary with assignment.”
- In addition to the District Chiefs’ regularly scheduled hours, both combat and non-combat District Chiefs regularly work additional unscheduled combat shifts, which results in District Chiefs working more than 40 hours in a week, or in excess of 53 hours per week.
- The District Chief’s CBA does not reference overtime because the City unlawfully classifies District Chiefs as exempt employees under the FLSA.
- The exact hours worked by Plaintiffs and the exact workweeks in which Plaintiffs worked over 40 hours in a week or over 53 hours in a week can easily be determined by reviewing Defendant’s timekeeping and payroll records, which are in the possession, custody, and control of Defendant.
The complaint, which is an interesting read, also contains many more important factual allegations related to the district chiefs’ responsibilities as “first responders” as opposed to high-level managers. This is necessary because Department of Labor (DOL) regulations forbid employers from classifying “first responders” as exempt from FLSA overtime under any of the FLSA’s “white-collar” overtime exemptions.
Did I mention that this suit is one of several recent lawsuits filed by high-ranking fire officers seeking overtime? My friend and colleague Curt Varone posted a story about another very similar lawsuit only yesterday on FireLaw Blog. That lawsuit was filed by a recently retired deputy fire chief, also from Florida. Click here, for more on that story.
We will be keeping a close eye on both of these lawsuits (and others) as they develop.
Here is a copy of the district chiefs’ complaint.