Bloomington firefighters underpaid for years, will get $235,000 back pay

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The city of Bloomington has discovered that its firefighters have been paid on the wrong overtime system, leading many to be underpaid by thousands of dollars.

The men and women who put their lives on the line every day thought they were being paid incorrectly, and they were right. Chief Jason Moore said it was one of the first things his employees told him about when he took over this year, and he worked with the city to confirm their suspicions.

"A lot of them have been following law across the country and they knew something was wrong. They were just looking for someone to fix it for them and that’s what we’ve done here today," Moore said.

Moore and city officials announced at a news conference that the city should've stopped using a fluctuating workweek system, which has been found not to apply to fire departments in most communities.

The system has been in place in Bloomington for decades, though it's unclear how many years ago it was ruled ineligible.

"The federal government had changed their methodology and how or why we didn’t get notified, we weren’t able to figure out," Controller Jeff Underwood said.

Since there was no proof of intentional wrongdoing, the city is only required to pay back two years' worth of overtime. That adds up to $235,000 for more than 100 firefighters. Two firefighters were overpaid, but they will not be required to pay that money back.

The local union president told FOX59 that his firefighters had tried to get the old administration to look into the issue, but it was never changed. He suspected people may have been underpaid going back many more years, but did not believe there's a course of action beyond the two years' worth of back pay.

Moore said he's glad to get back on solid footing and get his people what they deserve.

"We’ll properly pay our people and those are the people we depend on every day to make sure that we’re safe," Moore said.

Underwood said the city will use leftover money this year to pay the $235,000, with no impact to tax rates. The city is now using an approved overtime calculation and will adjust fire department budgets moving forward.