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Fire Captains Win Overtime Back Pay

NORFOLK, Va. — Fire captains for the City of Portsmouth will be receiving the back pay they are owed for the unpaid overtime hours they worked. The City of Portsmouth had previously denied its fire captains overtime wages, unlike the vast majority of municipalities across the country. But, a recent review and change in policy led to the settlement of the fire captains’ Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime pay lawsuit.

Fire Captain Claim

The fire captains’ filed their lawsuit in September 2013 in Virginia District Court. Nineteen fire captains were included in the initial claim and ten additional captains joined after the filing. According to the lawsuit, the fire captains were seeking compensation for the overtime hours they worked without compensation over the course of the prior three years.

In their claim, they allege that the City of Portsmouth failed to pay its fire captains overtime pay when they worked more than 40 hours a week for about 10 years. The failure to pay proper overtime wages was the result of the City’s policy. The fire captains claimed they raised the issue of their overtime pay and the City’s policy on numerous occasions with their supervisors, yet no action was ever taken to address the problem.

The City’s policy was created and implemented prior to a 2004 change in federal regulations regarding fire protection employees and overtime pay. Prior to the change, overtime pay for those whose primary duty was fire protection and emergency response was dependent upon the person’s rank. After the change in 2004, rank was no longer a factor and the fire captains became eligible and entitled to overtime wages. However, the City continued to believe the captains were exempt from overtime pay.

Change in Policy

After the City Attorney reviewed the fire captains’ overtime claim, it was determined that the City would change its overtime policy. In addition to addressing the policy problems, the City will pay $385,000 in back wages to 29 current and former fire captains. The fire captains will receive payouts from around $5,000 to $17,000, which include both back wages for the unpaid overtime, as well as damages. The City will also cover the fire captains’ attorneys’ fees of just over $168,000.

Even though the City of Portsmouth applied the same policy to the fire captains for 10 years, the fire captains were only seeking three years of back wages. Typically, there is a two-year statute of limitations on overtime claims. But there are some circumstances, like this one, where the FLSA provides an additional year. If you believe your employer has been wrongfully denying you overtime wages for years, you have a limited amount of time to file your claim. Contact our team of overtime pay lawyers to discuss your options today at (855) 754-2795. Or our experienced legal team can evaluate your situation when you complete the Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review form. If we accept your case, we will represent you under our No Fee Promise. This means there are no legal fees or costs unless you receive a settlement.

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