While it is doubtless that many firefighters love their jobs, most of them don’t do it for free. They still need to earn a living and they expect to be paid for all of the hours that they work. This includes overtime, and in at least one recent case, has led to 25 current and retired firefighters suing their town over alleged failure to pay proper overtime wages.
The firefighters of Seabrook, New Hampshire allegedly worked a schedule which was on a four-week rotation which allegedly dates back to 2008. Each firefighter was required to work two 24-hour shifts per week for three consecutive weeks. On the fourth week, the firefighter was required to work one 24-hour shift. This means the firefighters were working 168 hours for every four weeks which averages out to 42 hours per week. This kind of schedule is still common in several areas of New England employment, but it is widely regarded as an old-fashioned approach. Regardless of tradition, employers must still be careful to meet all of the state and federal guidelines for wage and overtime pay.
A settlement has recently been reached in the lawsuit amounting to $207,000. This allows for $195,000 to pay the firefighters their back wages and $12,000 in attorneys’ fees. However, the amount the town will pay to the retired firefighters out of the firefighters’ retirement fund has yet to be determined. The settlement has been accepted by approved selectmen, but it needs approval from the trial court judge before it can be finalized.
Each of the firefighters will receive their long-awaited back pay in a lump sum payment. The firefighters still have yet to agree as to how the lump payments will be made. Although the complaint alleged 104 unpaid hours per year for each of the firefighters who participated in the class action, the amount of real damages is difficult to determine since each firefighter was earning different wages based on rank and seniority. It is safe to say however, that had the parties not agreed to settle, the town could have ended up paying much more than the estimated $207,000. Although the town agreed to the settlement, it is still unclear how they are going to pay said settlement. At least some, if not all of it, may be coming from Seabrook’s reserve funds.
The town is not changing its existing schedule for firefighters. However, from now on, two hours will be added to the firefighters’ time sheets and wages in order to avoid another wage and hour lawsuit at a later date.
This case is unusual because, although all of the firefighters who participated in the class action were members of the firefighters’ union, they chose a class action lawsuit over unionizing. However, the attorney representing the firefighters in this case is also the attorney for the firefighters’ union. No reason has been given as to why the firefighters chose not to unionize to address this particular issue.
It is also worth noting that this case went into mediation because it is an automatic requirement in New Hampshire that all civil suits must enter into mediation. This case required only one day of mediation before both parties reached an agreement.
The Chicago overtime lawyers at the Chicago Overtime Law Center are investigating unpaid overtime claims against governements and large corporations such as Hyatt Hotels, Walmart and other companies for misclassifying employees as managers, erasing or altering time sheets or time records, pressuring workers not to report or record overtime, and otherwise failing to pay workers for overtime and other wages. If you are the victim this practice call us at (312) 869-4095 or contact us online.
The Illinois overtime attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have decades of experience fighting for wage earner’s rights. We have a team of overtime attorneys who focus on nationwide class action lawsuits and work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices and prosecute claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Wheaton and Naperville. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Kane and Cook Counties.
Our River Forest and La Grange overtime lawyers are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers misclassify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages.
The Chicago Overtime Law Center is based in Chicago, and represents clients throughout the country who have not been paid for the overtime hours that they worked. If you believe that you are owed overtime wages, contact one of our Chicago class action attorneys by phone at (312) 869-4095 or through our online form.