OKLAHOMA CITY – Current and former members of the Chickasha Fire and Emergency Medical Service Department sued the City of Chickasha this month, alleging they’ve been stiffed on overtime compensation and an incentive bonus.
The city has adopted a 14-day work period and is supposed to pay its firefighters time-and-a-half for all work performed beyond 106 hours during each 14-day work period, the lawsuit contends.
The “recurring” work schedule of Chickasha firefighters is 24 hours on duty and 48 hours off duty. Consequently, during a 14-day period in which the firefighters have five 24-hour shifts, they are on duty for 120 hours, which includes “at least 14 hours of overtime work beyond the 106-hour overtime threshold.”
In addition, one of the city’s “contractual incentives” under the Fire Department’s collective bargaining agreement is longevity pay, which is calculated at $7 per month per year of service. “As a non-discretionary bonus” set by contract, longevity pay “must be included in the regular rate of pay when calculating overtime compensation,” the firefighters allege.
However, since late 2017 the city “has failed and continues to fail” to incorporate longevity pay into firefighters’ regular wages when calculating their overtime compensation, the lawsuit claims.
Because of these “willful and purposeful violations” of the Fair Labor Standards Act the city owes the firefighters “an amount that has not yet been precisely determined.”
The relief requested by the firefighters includes “a complete and accurate accounting of all the compensation” to which the firefighters allege they are entitled, plus “back pay compensation and benefits” and attorneys’ fees.
The lawsuit was filed in the Western District federal court in Oklahoma City on December 1 by 31 current and former members of the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 2041. One of the plaintiffs, Joshua Gregston, released the following statement from the firefighters’ legal team:
“This lawsuit is about the City of Chickasha’s willful refusal to include ‘longevity pay’ in its firefighters’ overtime rate, which is a textbook
Fair Labor Standards Act violation. The union, on behalf of its members, has been trying to get the City to do the right thing for over three years now. So far, nothing short of a lawsuit has worked and we are committed to ensuring the firefighters recover the unpaid wages and other relief that they are due in light of the City’s FLSA violation. However, we remain hopeful that the City will recognize that it is in everyone’s best interest to work to resolve this issue as soon as possible by making sure the firefighters receive the pay they owed for the important work they do in serving and protecting the community.”
The city declined to comment about the litigation and had not filed a response to the petition by 5 p.m. Wednesday. The firefighters are represented by Oklahoma City attorney Douglas D. Vernier and two attorneys from a firm in Washington, D.C., that specializes in labor law.