Government entities that employ firefighters face thorny Fair Labor Standards Act () problems. The law requires overtime pay for firefighters who work more than 204 hours in a 27-day period. But that can get complicated when a local agency assigns its firefighters to battle wildfires for the state.
The agreement between the local government and the state must truly turn the firefighters over to the state during the deployment. Otherwise, the local government must pay overtime for all hours worked over 204.
Recent case: Several Sioux Falls firefighters accepted a voluntary deployment to fight wildfires for the state.
The agreement between Sioux Falls and South Dakota referred to the city as the contractor and said the state would reimburse the city for all wages.
Later, the firefighters learned they were being paid straight time for hours worked beyond 204. They sued for overtime pay.
The city argued that the firefighters had been employed by two entities while deployed, and didn’t exceed the 204-hour limit for either one. It said this was akin to a police officer who works 40 hours for the city and another 40 hours as a private security guard.
The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected that reasoning, since the contract between the city and state clearly indicated the firefighters were merely lent out. That meant all their hours counted toward the overtime threshold. (Specht, et al., v. City of Sioux Falls, No. 10-1733, 8th Cir., 2011)
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