City of Lawrence to pay 48 fire, police and other employees nearly $1M total in back overtime because of classification mistake

photo by: Mike Yoder

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured Thursday, July 7, 2016.

The City of Lawrence has agreed to pay nearly $1 million in back overtime to dozens of firefighter captains, police sergeants and other city employees.

Following both an outside and internal review, the city determined it had mistakenly misclassified certain positions as not eligible for overtime when they actually were, according to a city news release Friday. As a result, the city will be paying back overtime totaling $998,600 to 21 fire captains, 24 police sergeants and three city planners.

“The City has a responsibility to ensure employees are paid accurately and fairly,” Human Resources Director Lori Carnahan said in the release. “We are committed to correcting any underpayment of overtime to which our employees may be entitled. This is a complex computation and we have been working hard to get it right for our employees.”

The issue goes back to the summer of 2019, when captains from Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical requested a formal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) review of their exempt status, thinking that the city may have overlooked a change in FLSA standards. An exempt employee is not eligible for overtime pay, while nonexempt employees are eligible for overtime pay.

At the same time as this request, the city of Lawrence Human Resources Office was in the process of reviewing and updating city salaries, which included an FLSA review of selected positions. A consultant was hired in 2018 and a full-time compensation analyst position was filled in early 2019 to assist in planning and carrying out the work related to city salaries.

Under these circumstances, it was discovered that the city had unintentionally failed to reclassify exempt status for fire-medical captains and police sergeants following changes in FLSA standards, according to the release.

The city corrected the error in late 2019 by converting both of these groups from exempt to nonexempt, and the reclassification took effect in early 2020. The city worked with third-party attorneys and the fire and police employees whose positions were misclassified to calculate any incurred overtime in these positions in 2018, 2019 and in early 2020. During the process, it was also discovered the three planners had been misclassified for different reasons.

Payments to affected employees will be made on April 16.


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