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DC firefighters' wage and hour dispute coming to an end

Disputes between employees and employers are not uncommon. These disputes can take many forms, ranging from violations of workers' rights to sexual harassment to wrongful termination. One of the most common types of disputes that occurs between employees and their employers is wage and hour disputes. Many workers are entitled to overtime pay but are frequently denied this compensation.

In Washington, D.C., a year's long dispute over overtime pay may finally be coming to an end as the result of a decision by the highest court in the District ruling. The dispute is between firefighters and the District government. The issue began in the 1990s when a financial control board attempted to balance the budget, in part by overturning some collective bargaining agreements of city employees'--agreements that also had implications for overtime pay.

Prior to the control board taking control, the firefighters were entitled to overtime pay for all hours worked over 42 per week. While the control board was in charge, the board changed the starting point for overtime to 53 hours per week, consistent with the federal standard. When the control board stopped managing the budget in 2001, the city continued to pay firefighters for overtime only above 53 hours per week, instead of 42, even though the firefighters argued that their original bargaining agreements and contracts resumed force, entitling them to overtime for hours above 42 per week. The highest court of the District recently issued a ruling in favor of the firefighters.

All employees, whether federal, state, local or private, should understand their rights relating to their pay and hours. There are many important aspects of wage and hour laws, and if employees do not understand and demand that their rights be protected, they may lose money to which they are entitled. Some wage and hour disputes arise when an employee is classified as non-exempt yet denied overtime. Other disputes may involve mistakes or errors in an employee's classification, which could also improperly deny overtime pay to the employee.

Other issues related to the wage and hour laws include benefits, use of the Family Medical Leave Act, the denial of meal or rest breaks, failure to pay vacation and/or personal time, and failure to pay the proper amount of salary or wages upon termination. Employees should not hesitate speaking up to protect their rights in these areas because there are also federal laws that protect against employer retaliation.

Source: The Washington Post, "D.C. firefighters' $47 million overtime bill roils city budget," Aaron C. Davis, Jan. 26, 2015

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