Mission Support Alliance (MSA) has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought by 13 current and former fire captains or platoon sergeants at the Hanford Site who are seeking overtime pay for routinely working beyond 40 hours per week. The case was filed against the Hanford support services contractor in April 2018 in U.S. District Court for Eastern Washington.
The contractor told Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson that the fire captains are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime requirements because they are highly compensated, earning more than $100,000 annually. It also argued that they are exempt because their primary duty is the non-manual work of commanding a fire station at the Department of Energy nuclear cleanup site.
Each station has a fire captain assigned for each shift. Duties include ensuring the station has adequate staff, participating in the morning management conference call, delegating tasks within the station, preparing incident reports, and inspecting buildings to prepare emergency plans.
“The fact that a captain may engage in front-line emergency response duties from time to time does not alter the fact that those duties are not the captains’ primary duties,” MSA said in court documents. Emergency response takes only a fraction of their work time, it said.
Plaintiffs filed a counter motion asking that the judge find MSA liable to pay overtime at time and a half. The Department of Labor has held that first-line supervisors who engage in firefighting and emergency response are required to be paid FLSA overtime, they said.
Plaintiffs said fire captains are first and foremost firefighters and first responders. The fire captains’ most important job is to respond with their crews to calls for fire and emergency service, with office duties secondary, they said.