Ind. city approves $18K settlement for firefighter in overtime pay lawsuit

The city was previously ordered to pay more than $90,000 in backpay to 15 firefighters


Tyler Juranovich
Kokomo Tribune, Ind.

TIPTON, Ind. — The city of Tipton and a firefighter have reached a settlement related to a federal lawsuit that alleged the city violated the Fair Labor Standard Act by not paying the proper amount of overtime pay.

The Tipton City Council on Monday unanimously approved a resolution allowing the city to disburse a maximum of $18,763.42 as a settlement related to the lawsuit firefighter Chad Frazier brought against the city last September seeking reimbursement for lost wages, vacation pay and other damages.

Messages to both Tipton Mayor Tom Dolezal and Frazier's attorney, Rachel Guin, seeking comment on the settlement were not returned Wednesday.

In an amended complaint filed in October in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Frazier alleged he and other firefighters were not paid time and a half for overtime hours worked for the past three years. Instead, they were paid half of their hourly wage for overtime hours. When the firefighters asked about their overtime pay, the complaint alleges they were told "that is just how things are done" by the city.

Frazier also alleges that the city retaliated against him and another unnamed firefighter for "immoral conduct" after it was discovered that a complaint had been filed with the Department of Labor regarding the lack of proper overtime pay.

The amended complaint alleges that Tipton Fire Chief Joe Bitner told Frazier that Doelzal was "very angry" about the complaint filed with the DOL and that it was "influencing the decision to implement the discipline" against Frazier and that the city believed Frazier was the one who contacted the DOL. Frazier, in his complaint, denies he was the one who contacted the DOL.

On Aug. 11, 2020, the complaint alleges, Bitner asked Frazier and the other unnamed firefighter if the two wanted their write-up to be reduced to a verbal warning. Later, according to the complaint, a document signed by Bitner and placed on Frazier's bed stated "The labor lawyer for the City of Tipton has advised me that due to a technicality, I should remove the verbal reprimand from your file. As such, it has been removed."

In an answer to Frazier's lawsuit filed in November, the city, Dolezal and Bitner denied the accusations that the city was not properly paying its firefighters overtime and denied Frazier and the other unnamed firefighter faced any retaliation due to a complaint being filed with the DOL.

However, in December of last year, after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division, the city of Tipton was ordered to pay $91,924 in back wages to 15 city firefighters for violations of overtime pay requirements of the FLSA.

"The WHD investigation found the City of Tipton failed to pay overtime to firefighters who worked more than 106 hours in their two-week pay period," said a press release from the DOL. "The FLSA provides an exemption that allows employers to pay fire protection or law enforcement employees overtime on a 'work period' basis, instead of a standard 7-day workweek, with a work period ranging from seven to 28 consecutive days. Fire protection personnel are due overtime after 106 hours worked during a 14-day work period. In this case, the City of Tipton failed to pay overtime when firefighters worked more than 106 hours."

The settlement marks the likely end of the lawsuit. According to the case docket, both parties have until April 23 to formally motion a dismissal of the case.

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(c)2021 the Kokomo Tribune (Kokomo, Ind.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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