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Question

As A First Responder Who Supervises Others In Georgia, Should I Be Making Overtime Wages?

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Answer

This is a question we often see in our work representing employees. Many first responders are misclassified as being ineligible for overtime when in fact, they are legally entitled to overtime pay.

First Responder Regulation

The First Responder Regulation requires overtime pay for public safety employees who perform the following duties:

  • Preventing, controlling or extinguishing fires of any type
  • Rescuing fire, crime or accident victims
  • Preventing or detecting crimes
  • Conducting investigations or inspections for violations of law
  • Performing surveillance
  • Pursuing, restraining and apprehending suspects
  • Detaining or supervising suspected and convicted criminals, including those on probation or parole
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Interrogating and fingerprinting suspects
  • Preparing investigative reports
  • Or other similar work

Basically, anyone whose primary duty is the performance of the work of a firefighter, police officer, investigator, emergency medical technician, paramedic, correction officer, etc., should be paid the overtime premium.

Most non-exempt employees are entitled to the overtime premium when they work more than 40 hours in a given seven-day workweek.  Because of the round-the-clock needs of public safety, however, overtime for most firefighters and law enforcement officers is based on a 14 or 28 day work period. There are some distinctions for different employment contexts, but in general, this is the legal presumption.

Where The Confusion Comes In

The confusion frequently comes when an employee who performs these first responder duties is promoted to a more supervisory or administrative role, thus converting them from an hourly-wage employee to a salaried employee. Because of this promotion and change in pay structure, employers often claim the employee is exempt under either the administrative or executive exemptions even if they still perform first responder duties.

This is not correct. The First Responder Regulation requires that employees with first responder duties—regardless of how they are paid and regardless of whether they supervise others—should be paid overtime. For instance, if a lieutenant,  captain or battalion chief’s job requires being on the scene at a fire and performing any firefighter duties, that employee should still be considered a first responder who should be paid overtime. As a general rule, only highly ranked political appointees (not subject to classified service) are exempt.  

What Does This Mean For You?

If you are a firefighter or other first responder and not receiving overtime pay, you might have a wage and hour claim. If you have such a claim, you could recover the overtime pay you should have been paid, plus an equal amount as liquidated damages for the previous three years of work, and your employer would be required to pay your attorneys’ fees and costs.

Obviously, each situation is unique, and there is no way to accurately tell you whether you are eligible for overtime pay without talking to you. We are always pleased to help those who keep all of us safe, so we always offer free consultations to first responders.

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