Fire Protection Workers Win $1.3M in Back Pay

San Jose testers and installers of fire sprinkler units awarded a seven-figure sum in allegedly unpaid overtime wages.

Anyone who’s ever been shorted on overtime pay can take some inspiration from a group of 81 fire sprinkler technicians in San Jose. In an unpaid wage complaint that dates all the way back to 2011, these fires sprinkler installers and testers were awarded $1.3 million due to them by their employer Cintas Fire Protection Services.

In a decision levied last week by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, these Cintas fire sprinkler technicians were found to not have been paid for time completing reports, sending emails and submitting timesheets from the period between 2011 and 2015. Cintas Fire Protection Services refused to pay for the time employees spent on these tasks because this work was not billable to their clients.

“Cintas shortchanged employees for some hours they worked that could not be billed to clients, despite us explaining the law to them directly in the past,” Director of the Wage and Hour Division Susana Blanco said in a statement. “The results of this investigation should send a strong message about how seriously the Wage and Hour Division takes compliance. Not only will dozens of workers now receive their long overdue wages, but Cintas has also agreed to a series of measures to prevent these types of violations in the future.”

Those measures include the establishment of a hotline for workers to submit wage complaints, a nationwide compliance team to enforce wage payment, and additional measures to terminate managers who request or allow off-the-clock work.

While we can draw some inspiration and determination from these workers who successfully fought for their back wages, this sentiment may be short-lived. The ruling was announced in the final days of the Obama administration, during the tenure of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. Current Labor nominee Andrew Puzder has faced multiple class action lawsuits regarding failure to pay overtime.

But for the determined optimists out there, the Wage and Hour Division does have a toll-free national hotline at 1-866-4USWAGE.

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