A federal judge in Norfolk, Virginia approved a total settlement exceeding $500,000 for a group of 29 current and retired Fire Captains for the City of Portsmouth owed overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Settlement represented almost 90 percent of the maximum dollar the plaintiffs could have achieved at trial. $385,000 of the total settlement was distributed between the 29 Fire Captains, with the remainder of the settlement going to attorneys’ fees and litigation costs.
Lawsuit Filed for Overtime Pay
Along with the Richmond law firm of Butler Royals, Ervin Jewett, P.C. filed suit on behalf of the Fire Captains in September 2013, alleging that the City had intentionally misclassified the group of fire captains as exempt employees. In 2005, the Department of Labor issued, 29 CFR 541.3(b)(1), known as the “First Responder” regulation, which requires employers and governmental entities to pay overtime to employees who perform emergency response work, such as fighting fires, as their primary duty.
Portsmouth Agrees to Change Overtime Policy
In addition to providing backpay to the group of fire captains, the City of Portsmouth also agreed to change its policy so that fire captains would receive overtime pay moving forward. In arriving to the decision to change the policy, the City Manager noted to the Virginian Pilot that it became clear after exchanging information with the fire captains’ attorneys that the City’s overtime policy ran counter to federal regulations.
The case received media coverage in the Virginian Pilot, Washington Times, Richmond Times Dispatch, and 13NewsNow.