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New York Fire Department Pays $14.5 Million to EMTs

February 9th, 2020 Emma O'Connor

New YorkNew York City has to pay over 2,500 of the Fire Department’s medical technicians and paramedics $14.5 million in the court case Chaz Perry, et al. v. City of New York and New York Fire Department.  Not only were the medical workers not compensated for pre and post-shift work, but they did not receive time-and-one-half pay for hours worked over forty.  The EMTs said that they swiped into work early to assemble their gear and coordinate with supervisors. They said they often swiped out late in order to finish reports or to put away and exchange medical equipment.  Thus, the paramedics’ hours worked were recorded on timekeeping machines but were deliberately ignored by the New York Fire Department. 

The $14.5 million accounts for $7.25 million in back pay, $7.238 million in liquidated damages, and $3.3 million for the fees and costs of the plaintiffs’ attorneys according to US District Judge Vernon S. Broderick.  Because the EMTs logged their overtime by swiping in and out of work, the back pay was calculated directly from the amount of time that the city had recorded on its timekeeping machines but failed to pay. Molly A. Elkon, the plaintiffs’ attorney from the law firm McGillivary Steele Elkin LLP, told Law360 “following a three-week jury trial, the jury did justice, finding that the city recklessly violated the FLSA by failing to pay its paramedics and EMTs for pre-shift and post-shift work time recorded on the city’s time clocks.  On behalf of the hard-working FDNY first responders, we are thrilled with the verdict, and with the court’s award of double damages.” 

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

The New York Fire Department violated the FLSA’s requirement that all non-exempt employees who work more than 40-hours per week receive overtime compensation of time-and-one-half the hourly rate of pay. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has generally defined work as “ as exertion or loss of an employee’s time that is (1) controlled or required by an employer, (2) pursued necessarily and primarily for the employer’s benefit, and (3) if performed outside the scheduled work time, an integral and indispensable part of the employee’s principal activities.”  

The court only holds employers accountable for paying overtime if they had “actual or constructive knowledge of that work.” According to Judge Broderick, the paramedics’ pre and post-shift tasks can be considered “work” and supervisors observed them performing these uncompensated overtime activities.  Ultimately, the jury unanimously decided that the New York Fire Department failed to properly compensate its medical technician and paramedic staff after deliberating for less than two hours. 

Seek Legal Assistance

If your employer has denied you your rightful overtime compensation, seek legal assistance today. The Working Solutions Law Firm, located in New York City, can assist you. Contact us today at (646) 430-7930 to schedule a free case evaluation and receive experienced legal counsel.