No Overtime Pay to Firefighters For Picking Up Protective Gear

By Michael N. Westheimer and Lauren E. Ball Jan 27, 2016

HR Magazine February 2016​Firefighters did not have to be paid for time spent retrieving protective gear at their home fire station before reporting for shifts elsewhere, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

The case involved firefighters in the Menlo Park (Calif.) Fire Protection District, who have a home fire station but occasionally work shifts at other stations. Firefighters have protective gear that must be immediately accessible to them at work—pants, coats, helmets and boots. While they are allowed to take those items to their residences, many prefer to leave them at their home fire station.

Professional Pointer

Work-related actions that take place before or after an employee’s principal activities need not be compensated under the FLSA if they are not integral and indispensable parts of the employee’s main job.

Firefighters may be called at their residences and told to report to another station the following day, and they do not start getting paid until they arrive at the other station. In the case brought before the court, the firefighters argued that they should be paid for gear-retrieval time.

The 9th Circuit disagreed, observing that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) excludes activities that happen before or after the principal duties the employee is asked to perform, as long as those undertakings are not integral and indispensable parts of an employee’s main job. In this instance, the firefighters had the option of taking their gear to the place where they live, which would dispense with the need to stop by their home station before reporting to work.

Michael N. Westheimer is a shareholder and Lauren E. Ball is an associate in the San Francisco office of Ogletree Deakins, a labor and employment law firm representing management.

Legal Briefs

Independent Investigation Can Preclude ‘Cat’s Paw’ Liability

A supervisor’s discriminatory animus will not support “cat’s paw” liability—that is, the liability that arises if one person is duped into carrying out the wishes of another person who doesn’t provide all the relevant information—if the employer conducted an independent investigation that determined the adverse action was justified apart from the supervisor’s recommendation, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

As part of an investigation into alleged employee misconduct, an employer should gather information from a variety of sources and not depend on the word of one supervisor.

Union Safety Specialist Must Be Given Access to Fatal Accident Site

An employer’s decision to deny a union safety specialist access to a fatal accident site was unlawful, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. The National Labor Relations Act requires unionized employers to bargain collectively with the union. This encompasses the obligation to provide to the union information that could affect collective bargaining, including that related to workplace safety.

Unexplained Pay Disparity Supports Race Bias Claim

A black training specialist employed by a U.S. Army contractor who received $8,000 a year less than a white worker who was employed in the same position could bring his pay discrimination claim to trial, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

Although the trial court had dismissed the claim, the appellate court reinstated it, noting that the employer had not identified any significant differences in duties performed by the two employees—nor had it sufficiently distinguished between the qualifications of the two workers.


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