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Is Double Dipping a Violation of Massachusetts Labor Law?

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Charlton, MADoes a building commissioner who also serves as a call firefighter deserve municipal pay under Massachusetts labor law when a call comes in during work hours? Or should the Massachusetts employee forfeit his municipal pay when performing emergency duties? Is he even allowed to work these two jobs at all?

As outlined in the 7/2/10 edition of the Massachusetts Telegram & Gazette, Curtis Meskus has been a call firefighter for 27 years. In 2003 Meskus was also hired as the local building commissioner in Charlton.

According to the Telegram & Gazette, Meskus was completely up front and filed full disclosure documents with the town clerk describing the arrangement, which had full support of selectmen who hired him as building commissioner. Namely, Meskus would respond to, and receive hourly pay for, fire emergencies during hours that he would normally be paid to perform the duties of commissioner.

However, there are those who feel that Meskus is double dipping.

Considering Meskus exercised full disclosure since the beginning and has been reappointed without debate each year to the building commissioner's position, there appeared to be an absence of concern until a member of the local police department questioned whether the arrangement was in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). A local resident with a history of disputes with Meskus also filed a formal complaint with the Ethics Commission (EC).

The EC advised Meskus that he couldn't receive firefighter pay for emergency calls during regular business hours. However, Charlton Town Administrator Robin Craver told the Telegram & Gazette, "It appears that there are no FLSA violations regarding him holding both positions or by paying him straight time when he answers a fire call as long as he's a salaried employee."

In fact, under FLSA guidelines Meskus cannot perform the fire service without compensation—which he has been doing since the debate began. On average, according to the Telegram & Gazette, Meskus responds to eight emergency calls per year during the hours he is paid as a salaried employee of the town. Paid $62,000 as Building Commissioner, Meskus receives up to $24.32 per hour for fire calls as required.

By not collecting compensation for his firefighting duties, Meskus and the fire department are in contravention of FLSA.

With the two agencies taking a conflicting view, it appears this alleged affront to Massachusetts employment labor law will take additional time to resolve.

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