MODESTO, CA — A California judge recently approved a settlement between firefighters and the city of Modesto, finally bringing an end to an almost two-year unpaid overtime lawsuit that will compensate the emergency responders for all their hard work. As part of the settlement, the county will pay back workers for overtime miscalculations dating from July 27, 2013, through March 7, 2017, with payments ranging from less than $100 to over $100,000, and will also cover the plaintiff’s legal fees to litigate the case.
According to the unpaid overtime lawsuit, filed in July 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, the city violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) when it failed to properly calculate the overtime pay rates for many of its firefighters, including engineers and captains. Those violations took place when the city failed to take into account cash payments made to firefighters to purchase their own private health insurance, rather than opt into the healthcare plans provided by the city.
Those cash payments came out to about $525 per month and resulted in significant underpayments in overtime wages for the plaintiffs. Under the FLSA, workers must earn at least one and a half times their average hourly rate of pay, including bonuses, commissions, and other payments, not just the hourly wage they earn for their time on the job. The settlement is expected to cover 52 current and former firefighters for the city who opted for the cash healthcare payments.
The settlement comes on the heels of an important decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which held that cash payments in lieu of medical benefits must be included in overtime calculations. That decisions was essentially affirmed when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up the defendant’s appeal. While the city of Modesto admits no fault in the settlement, it is nonetheless significant for the plaintiffs in the case who will finally receive justice.
Firefighter Unpaid Overtime Lawsuit
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