CATHEDRAL CITY – The Cathedral City Professional Firefighters Association has filed a lawsuit against the city alleging it failed to pay overtime in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Corey Goddard, an engineer/paramedic for the Cathedral City Fire Department and president of the Cathedral City Professional Firefighters Association (CCPFA), filed a federal lawsuit alleging his employer, Cathedral City, failed to include all remuneration in his and other firefighters’ regular rate of pay and therefore violated the FLSA. The Sacramento-based firm of Mastagni Holstedt is representing the CCPFA.

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 is a United States labor law that creates the right to a minimum wage, and “time-and-a-half” overtime pay when people work more than 40 hours a week.

CCPFA is the exclusive bargaining representative of employees in Defendant’s firefighter bargaining unit, which consists of all sworn firefighters, firefighter/paramedics and fire engineers of the city of Cathedral City below the rank of captain.

Goddard told Uken Report he could not comment on the lawsuit. He filed the seven-page lawsuit March 19 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California,

Goddard alleges the city failed to include holiday pay, educational incentives, acting pay, and bilingual pay in his and other “similarly situated” firefighters’ regular rate of pay.

According to Goddard’s complaint, the terms of employment between firefighters and Cathedral City are governed by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the city and the firefighters’ union. While the MOU contains a base salary for all covered firefighters, it also provides firefighters with additional remuneration above and beyond firefighters’ base hourly wages. This remuneration includes, “compensation in lieu of observing holidays,” educational incentives, acting pay, and bilingual pay. Goddard claims the city is not including this additional remuneration in the regular rate.

Mayor Mark Carnevale did not return emails, phone calls, or text messages seeking comment.

Councilmember Ernesto Guiterrez referred all questions to the city attorney and city manager.

Councilmember Raymond Gregory said he could not comment on pending litigation and items that are discussed in closed session.

Cathedral City is the latest city to face allegations of unpaid overtime from one of its firefighters. Similar lawsuits have been filed in San Diego and the states of Indian and Washington, among others.

Following are some highlights of Goddard’s complaint:

  • The terms and conditions of employment of CCPFA members, including but not limited to compensation, are governed by a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) between CCPFA and Defendant.
  • Pursuant to the MOU, Plaintiff’s total compensation consists of a base salary as well as incentives and other forms of remuneration that compensate him for his regularly scheduled shifts.
  • For example, Defendant provides Plaintiff monetary compensation in lieu of observing holidays (“Holiday Pay”) pursuant to Section 13.6 “Holidays” of the MOU between CCPFA and Defendant.
  • The MOU also includes other incentives, including but not limited to, Education Incentives, Acting Pay, and Bilingual Pay.
  • At all times relevant hereto, Defendant treated these payments to Plaintiff as wages for the purpose of applicable tax withholdings.
  • At all times relevant hereto, Defendant suffered or permitted Plaintiff to work hours beyond statutory thresholds, thus triggering Defendant’s obligation to pay Plaintiff overtime compensation as required by the FLSA.
  • Pursuant to 29 U.S.C. section 207(e), the “regular rate” upon which all forms of Plaintiff’s overtime compensation are based must include all remuneration received by Plaintiff, unless explicitly excluded.
  • At all times relevant hereto, Defendant impermissibly excluded certain remuneration from Plaintiff’s “regular rate” of pay, including but not limited to Holiday Pay, Education Pay, Acting Pay, and Bilingual Pay, thereby resulting in the systematic underpayment of overtime compensation to Plaintiff.
  • By the same conduct (i.e., the impermissible exclusion of remuneration from the “regular rate”), Defendant failed to pay Plaintiff and other similarly situated individuals for cashed out compensatory time off (“CTO”) at the “regular rate” of pay as required by 29 U.S.C. section 207(o)(3)-(4).

You may read the complaint —Goddard v. Cathedral City — in its entirety here.

Goddard v. Cathedral City FD Complaint


Image Sources

  • Cathedral City Fire Department: City of Cathedral City