Sixth Circuit holds that volunteer firemen paid $15.00 per hour were "employees" under Fair Labor Standards Act
Paul Mendel sued his employer after he was terminated form his police dispatch job. The City of Gibraltor in Eastern Michigan argued that it was not required to comply with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act or the Family Medical Leave Act because it did not employ 50 persons. It admitted employing 41 full-time employees, but argued that its thirty-some "volunteer" firefighters should not be included for purposes of FLSA or FMLA jurisdiction.
The Sixth Circuit reviewed the statutory language and prior interpretations and concluded that Congress and the Courts had made explicit the intent that the term "employee" be broadly interpreted under the pertinent statutory language. On that basis, since the firefighters received market wages and not merely nominal reimbursuement, they were "employees" under the act, even if they might not qualify under state rulings distinguishing employees from "independent contractors."