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Largest Nonprofit Industrial Firefighting Group Sues for OT Pay

At a time when Texas is laboring with a number of wild fires, the firefighters have been busy. Busy enough to earn overtime. And now an entire group of firefighters from Refinery Terminal Fire Company, the largest nonprofit industrial firefighting group in the country, has filed a federal class action asking to be paid overtime, reports Courthouse News Service.

Refinery Terminal Fire Company apparently failed to pay the firefighters time and a half for hours worked in excess of forty hours per workweek, alleges the complaint. The Refinery Terminal firefighters allege that they were required to be "on call" for 24 hours at a time but did not receive compensation for the time they were on call past 40 hours a week.

The Refinery Terminal firefighters have brought their class action pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act. The FLSA is federal act that set a minimum standard wage and a maximum work week of 40 hours.

One of the trickiest elements of a FLSA claim is the distinction between "exempt" and "nonexempt" employees. Exempt employees do not have to be paid time and a half for working over 40 hours per week. Some jobs are considered exempt by definition under the law, including outside sales staff and airline employees. But for most professions, an individual is an exempt employee if he or she meets the following three tests:

  • Is paid at least $23,600 per year (or $455 per week)
  • Is paid on a salary basis
  • Performs exempt job duties

As a rule of thumb, exempt employees tend to perform relatively high-level duties with respect to the company's overall operations (regardless of job title). The FLSA breaks this out into three main categories: executive, professional and administrative.

The firefighters, therefore, will be trying to argue that they were not exempt employees and were therefore deserving of overtime pay.

A FLSA lawsuit is a tricky one, despite the obviousness of the allegations and it is good to have a solid employment law attorney in your corner.

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