U.S. orders Ind. city to pay $672K in back overtime to firefighters, EMS providers
"We're still having issues with the administration on calculations," said Gary Firefighters Union 359 President Larry Tillman II
By Meredith Colias-Pete
GARY, Ind. — The U.S. Department of Labor announced Tuesday it had ordered the city of Gary to pay $672,000 in overtime back pay owed to 172 firefighters and paramedics, according to a press release.
"It's good the city is paying the firefighters correctly, that when errors are made, it's taken care of," Gary Fire Chief Sean O'Donnell said Tuesday.
Federal regulations require firefighters to be paid overtime once they work 106 hours in a two-week period. Investigators concluded Gary firefighters often worked up to 120 hours between 2020 and 2022 without getting the extra pay.
The settlement required the city to pay 154 firefighters $319,000 in back overtime, while paying 18 paramedics $353,000 for work over 40 hours per week.
"The payment process predated the Prince administration by years," spokesman Mike Gonzalez said, who added the money has already been paid. "We fully agree with the terms of the Department of Labor."
Gary Firefighters Union 359 President Larry Tillman II said the settlement doesn't resolve longstanding issues regarding how the firefighters are compensated in the city
"It was good the people were found to be paying us wrong and they corrected the issues," Tillman said. "But we're still having issues with the administration on calculations on how that's being done and the calculations on how pay goes out.
"We're not able to really understand our paychecks the way they're coming to us now."
The city "incorrectly" thought paramedics could work the same 106-hour pay schedule as firefighters. They didn't do "fire suppression" work, so they were owed regular overtime pay, according to the Department of Labor.
"Our investigation found the city of Gary failed to compensate these firefighters and paramedics as the law requires," Acting Wage and Hour Division District Director in Chicago Fernando Hernandez said. "Like all employers, states and local governments must understand the rules that apply to their employees and pay them properly."
The investigation covered March 8, 2020 and March 7, 2022.
Alex Dalton contributed.
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