New Haven Firefighters Sue Over Overtime Miscalculation

LR-Calculator-1On September 1, 2015, a total of 174 current and former firefighters filed a lawsuit against the City of New Haven (the “City”) seeking, among other things, back pay, liquidated damages, interest and attorney’s fees.  The threshold claim in the lawsuit is that the City of New Haven failed to accurately calculate and pay the firefighters for overtime wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  The case has already garnered wide spread media attention in Connecticut, and you can rest assured that local municipalities and unions representing firefighters are monitoring the lawsuit closely.

The lynchpin of the firefighters’ claims is that, in calculating the firefighters’ regular rate of pay, the City failed to incorporate additional compensation that the City provides to firefighters, including, but not limited to, certification pay, education incentive pay, acting pay, haz-mat pay and longevity pay.  The alleged failure to include this additional compensation is critical because FLSA requires that the “regular rate” of pay must include “all remuneration for employment.”  29 U.S.C. Section 207(e).

The impetus and driving force behind the lawsuit appears to be Capt. James Cottage, President of New Haven Fire Fighters Local 825.  A recent article in the New Haven Register reports that Capt. Cottage “stumbled upon” the alleged discrepancy in the manner that the City calculated overtime wages while filing a grievance in early 2014, and that he then spoke with then-Corporation Counsel Victor Bolden, the labor director and the comptroller.  According to Capt. Cottage’s quote in the article, “[t]his was a problem during the [former Mayor John] DeStefano administration and the [Mayor Toni] Harp administration has allowed it to continue.”  According to Cottage, he “pleaded and asked them to straighten out this matter before the fiscal year 2014-15” but “[t]hat didn’t happen.”  The article further quotes Capt. Cottage as saying that “[t]his could have all been avoided if everybody could’ve played nice in the sandbox.”

The stakes could be costly for the City because the firefighters are alleging that the omissions by the City were done in a willful, unreasonable and bad faith manner, entitling them to additional damages.  Acting Corporation Counsel John Rose has publicly acknowledged the lawsuit, but has maintained the Corporation Counsel’s policy of not commenting on pending litigation.  The lawsuit has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Meyer.

The lawsuit serves as a reminder to municipalities about the critical nature of properly calculating overtime compensation, especially under Section 7(k) of FLSA.  In short, fully complying with FLSA’s special provisions and rules for Fire Protection and Law Enforcement Employees can be challenging.  One misstep could be costly.  Municipalities should therefore be sure to consult and rely on counsel to ensure compliance with FLSA.

Posted in Compensation

This blog/web site presents general information only. The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice, and you should not consider or rely on it as such. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation. This website is not an offer to represent you. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based upon any information at this website. Neither our presentation of such information nor your receipt of it creates nor will create an attorney-client relationship with any reader of this blog. Any links from another site to the blog are beyond the control of Pullman & Comley, LLC and do not convey their approval, support or any relationship to any site or organization. Any description of a result obtained for a client in the past is not intended to be, and is not, a guarantee or promise the firm can or will achieve a similar outcome.

Subscribe to Updates

About Our Labor, Employment and Employee Benefits Law Blog

Alerts, commentary, and insights from the attorneys of Pullman & Comley’s Labor, Employment Law and Employee Benefits practice on such workplace topics as labor and employment law, counseling and training, litigation, union issues, as well as employee benefits and ERISA matters.

Other Blogs by Pullman & Comley

Connecticut Health Law Blog

Education Law Notes

For What It May Be Worth

Recent Posts


Jump to Page