North Carolina Volunteer Fire Company Facing FLSA Lawsuit

A North Carolina EMS Captain has filed a lawsuit against The Cooks Community Volunteer Fire Department, Inc., alleging violations of the FLSA. Captain Christopher Crump filed the suit in federal court on February 26, 2024. Crump’s primary claim is the that his department fails to pay him and other similarly situated firefighters overtime after working more than 40 hours in a seven-day workweek. Crucial to Crump’s allegations is that the Cooks Community Volunteer Fire Department is not a public agency. Private fire departments cannot utilize the FLSA’s §207(k) overtime exemption. Here is more from the complaint:

  • Defendant is a volunteer fire department that provides firefighting services to parts of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Defendant’s Board of Directors and Officers are selected independently of government decision-makers. Defendant hires employees directly and at its own discretion.
  • Crump and the Collective are individuals who work and have worked for Defendant as Firefighters during the three-year statutory period preceding the filing of this Complaint.
  • Amongst other things, Crump and the Collective all share similar training, job descriptions, job tasks, and are subject to the same compensation and time recording policies and procedures.
  • Crump and the Collective were all paid an hourly rate of pay and non-exempt employees with the meaning of the FLSA.
  • Crump began his employment with Defendant as a full-time Firefighter/EMT in or about the summer of 2022. In or about August 2023, Defendant promoted Crump to the EMS Captain role. Defendant still employs Crump as an EMS Captain.
  • Defendant employed Crump during the FLSA’s statutory period preceding the filing of this Complaint.
  • Throughout his employment with Defendant, Crump and the Collective received biweekly paychecks from Defendant that did not properly record or compensate them for all overtime hours that they worked.
  • Section 7(k) of the FLSA provides a partial overtime pay exemption for fire protection personnel who are employed by public agencies on a work period basis. Defendant is not a “public agency” within the meaning of the FLSA.
  • Defendant did not pay Firefighters overtime for all hours worked over 40 in a 7- day workweek.
  • Defendant maintained a policy and practice of paying overtime to its Firefighters when they worked more than 106 hours in a 14-day pay period.
  • Crump and the Collective worked 24-hour shifts.
  • Crump and the Collective worked more than 40 hours in a 7-day workweek during one of more workweeks during the three-year period preceding the filing of this Complaint.
  • Defendant’s violations of the FLSA were willful. Defendant knew, and was aware at all times, that Crump and the Collective were not paid for all overtime hours worked because Crump and other members of the Collective complained to Defendant about not being paid overtime correctly in violation of the FLSA. Defendant’s officers and board members responded to these complaints by stating that Defendant was “properly” paying overtime under the FLSA. Defendant’s officers and board members have additionally held meetings, with the most recent meeting held approximately one month prior to the filing of this Complaint, to advise Firefighters that Defendant was paying overtime “correctly” in response to complaints from Crump and members of the Collective.
  • The conduct alleged above reduced Defendant’s labor and payroll costs.
  • Defendant willfully failed to pay Crump and the Collective the overtime premium required by the FLSA.

It often surprises folks to learn that many of the FLSA’s special provisions that commonly apply to firefighters are only available to public agency employers. This includes the  §207(k) exemption, compensatory time, shift substitutions, and the small fire department exemption.

We will be keeping a close eye on this one as it develops.

Click here for more on the story from AOL News.

Here is a copy of the complaint.

Contact  William Maccarone to Discuss The Article