FFs and Cops Sue Fla. City for Pay

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. --

A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of several off-duty police and firefighters who work city events against SMG, a private company that runs city events.

The suit claims the officers and firefighters who work sports games and concerts, for instance, aren't getting paid the money they deserve. It says those employees have not been paid the correct hourly rates since or before 2005.

"They should be paid time and a half for their time," attorney Richard Watson said. "What we discovered in our preliminary investigation is they are not being paid time and half. They are being paid straight time."

Hundreds of thousands of dollars are at issue. The off-duty officers and firefighters are hired by SMG. The officers' lawyers said a city ordinance states how much they will be paid, which they claim SMG has ignored.

Only one officer and two firefighters are currently named in the two lawsuits, but the attorneys are now working to make this a class action suit and bring in all police and firefighters.

The police and fire unions said they have not heard of the lawsuit and can't yet comment, though they have heard of the issue.

So why file the suit now even though the unions' attorneys say it's been going on for years?

"I just don't think anyone has been willing to step up to the plate and challenge this practice, and my client has decided he wants to challenge the way he is paid," Watson said.

The officer and firefighters involved did not comment on the suit. They will wait and see if the court allows the entire workforce to join the suit.

SMG said the suits are ridiculous. It said it has had an agreement in place since 2005.

"We would have welcomed to have a renegotiation or discussion," SMG spokesman Michael Munz said. "No one has contacted us. The first time we are aware of them having a concern about a rate structure is when we were served a lawsuit, and I think that is an odd way to handle a relationship or negotiation for a salary."

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