LA County Fire Prevails in Second Lawsuit Following Recruit Academy Quarantine

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a class of more than 150 current and former LA County firefighters alleging that the county failed to pay recruit firefighters for all hours “worked” during the course of five separate recruit academies spanning an eight-month period in 2020. The firefighter’s claims centered around the county’s decision to offer a compressed recruit academy during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. The county offered recruits with previous firefighting experience the option of attending a compressed four-week training academy in lieu of the traditional twelve-week academy.

Firefighters that opted to attend the compressed academy worked 60-hour workweeks and were required to quarantine at an area hotel six nights per week. The recruits were allowed to return home after training concluded on Saturday afternoons, however, they were required to be back to the hotel Sunday evening. The county paid the firefighters for the 60 hours per week. The firefighters argued they should have been paid for all the hours that they were quarantined at the hotel in addition to the 60 hours per week spent training.

The judge dismissed the firefighters’ suit on two basic grounds. First, the firefighters failed to file their lawsuit in a timely manner. The statute of limitations for FLSA litigation is between two and three years. In other words, a lawsuit alleging an FLSA violation should be commenced within two years of the alleged violation. In theory, a lawsuit could also be filed within three years of the alleged violation, however if a plaintiff waits that long, he or she must also prove that the FLSA violation was “willful” to collect damages.

Here, the initial complaint was filed with the court in March 2023. However, the named plaintiff firefighter and the class of 156 other firefighter/plaintiffs did not file the required “Consent” to sue documents with the court until January 30, 2024. The alleged FLSA violations occurred between April and November of 2020. As a result, the court dismissed the firefighters claims because more than three years had passed between the alleged violations and the filing of the “written consent” to sue documents with the court.

Coincidently, this was the second FLSA lawsuit filed over the same four-week compressed training academy. The first was filed by a lone county firefighter in 2021. That lawsuit was also dismissed by the court, albeit for slightly different reasons. Here is more on that lawsuit from from last summer.

Surprisingly, failure to meet the FLSA’s statute of limitations requirement is not unusual. Here is a post from November 18, 2018 that resulted in a similar outcome for a New Hampshire police officer.

Here is a copy of the judge’s order from LA County.

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