The City of San Diego, has agreed to pay $442,000 in damages to several helicopter medics to resolve their claims that they were not paid overtime despite the fact that they were assigned to work for 56 hours every week.
As many Los Angeles residents know, the standard work week is 40 hours, and employers who insist on longer hours must pay time-and-a-half under federal law.
Traditionally, employers assumed that helicopter medics were subject to an exemption that allowed employers of government firefighters to work longer than a 40-hour week without having to pay overtime However, a 2014 court ruling changed that. The court in that case indicated that medics do not help fight fires.
Nevertheless, the city required the medics to maintain their 56-hour week without extra pay since, as the city reasoned, that was part of the medics collective bargaining agreement. Eventually, the city scaled back the medics to a 40-hour week. Still, the medics who were out two or so years of overtime sued.
The city's settlement, which received tentative approval months ago but still needs to be definitively approved, will go to the medics in order to compensate them for their lost overtime. The payments will also include a portion of the medics' attorney fees and other damages.
If anything, this case illustrates how it is an employer's responsibility to keep up with legal development and, as necessary, adjust their overtime practices accordingly. If they do not, then an employee may be able to seek appropriate remedies for wage and hour violations. They may want to speak to an experienced employment law attorney about this and other options.