United States District Court Judge Michael A. Ponsor ruled recently in Lemieux v. City of Holyoke that the state’s Minimum Fair Wages Act does not apply to municipal employees.
Plaintiffs, Jordan Lemieux, John Kadlewicz, Joseph O’Connor, Chris Butler, and David R. Rex, Jr., brought a class action suit against the City of Holyoke and its Fire Department, on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated current and former Holyoke firefighters, see 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), alleging violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq.,and the Massachusetts Minimum Fair Wages Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151, §§ 1A and 1B. Plaintiffs were seeking overtime compensation, including certain contractual wage augments, for hours worked in excess of forty per week during the period from January 21, 2005, to the present.
During the period of January 21, 2005, to the present, Plaintiffs were employed as firefighters by the City of Holyoke. Through their union membership, Plaintiffs were parties to a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”), which governed the terms and conditions of their employment with the City.
Under the terms of the CBA, firefighters on the rotating shift typically worked four consecutive days — two-day shifts and two night shifts — followed by four consecutive days off. Based on this pattern, a firefighter’s four-days-on stretch began on a particular day of the week (for example on a Monday) every fifty-six days. Day shifts were typically ten hours in length while night shifts were fourteen hours. The court accepts, as Plaintiffs assert and Defendants concede, that working within this framework, Holyoke firefighters routinely worked in excess of forty hours a week.
Because of the firefighter’s four-day on/four-day off shift, Holyoke qualified for a 29 U.S.C. section 270(k) exemption under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act. That meant the city was not required to pay overtime for the firefighters working in excess of 40 hours a week.
Judge Ponsor reasoned that “the detailed statutes granting municipalities the power to establish minimum and maximum wages for their employees, to establish their hours, days, and weeks of work, and to opt among three methods of establishing their regular and overtime hours, provide convincing evidence that the legislature never intended to jettison the doctrine of municipal immunity in order to permit suits by municipal employees under the state’s Fair Wages Act.”
The entire decision may be found at Lemieux, et al. v. City of Holyoke et al.