I just finished read this interesting article.

http://www.carolinagatewayonline.com/content/ems-workers-win-15-mil...

Sounds like they work 24 hours shifts and at least during sleep time they didn't get paid for the 8 hours. But because some night their sleep was interrupted and they could have a consecutive of 5 hours they didn't get paid for the full 8, which is illegal. Also if their "engaged time" or "work time" was over 40 hours they weren't getting paid for overtime because the EMS service was using some type of fire schedule that let them average the weeks out. I encourage you to read the article to get more details.

My question is:

My EMS service sounds VERY similar to the one in the lawsuit.

We work 24 hour shifts. Either 4-6 days in a row with either 1 or 2 days off. We go in to the shop at 8am, do our "shop time" till 4pm. Then we are feel to go, as long as we stay within a few minutes of the shop so if we get a call we can respond within 5 minutes. So most of us live in the town so we can go home to our families. So they say we are "on call" from 4pm to 8am. But we are only paid for 13 hour, 7 hours for our "shop time", then we get 6 hours of pay to be "on call" for the other 17 hours. And how they come up with 13 hours they say is they don't pay us to sleep, so 24 minus 8, and they don't pay us for breakfast lunch and dinner, an hour each, so 16 minus 3 = 13. Our hourly pay rates are the same for our "work time" and our "on call time". They don't tell us when our "sleep time" ends and starts. But I do think its a federal law from the FLSA saying if we don't get at least 5 hours of uninterrupted during our sleep time, the employer need to pay out the full 8 hours and not just the time worked. And many nights I get called at 2am for a transfer to Oklahoma City which is an hour and a half away, so over 3 hours there and back, and our sleep time is NEVER been paid in full. My other question is the "work time" versus "on call time", many weeks our work time is over 40 hours a week, and we NEVER get paid overtime. In the article I thought I read the EMS service was using some type of fire schedule so they didn't have to pay for the OT, but it was illegal.

Now the article is written about an EMS service in one of the Carolinas. My service is in Oklahoma. The laws that made the EMS service illegal, are they Federal laws or State?

I'm trying to find out if my ems service is treating their employees fairly or not. Thank you.

Tags: 13, 24, EMS, Illegal, Oklahoma, hours, overtime, pay, shifts, sleep, More…time

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This is a complex question.  It is best handled by a labor lawyer IN THE STATE where the question arises.

FLSA is pretty simple - employees must be paid time and one-half for all hours worked over 40 in a 7-day period.  The hourly rate is not addressed, as long as that rate is over the minimum wage.  Quite a few states have additional requirements.

EMS can not use the "fire schedule" unless, of course, its personnel are also legitimate firefighters for a legitimate fire department organization.  There have been plenty of cases on the subject - the so-called 207(k) exemption, but the most recent and large one that comes to mind is Philadelphia.  In Philly, EMS folks work for the fire department, which gave them some firefighter training.  However, they never DID firefighting, and in fact were prohibited from doing anything on a fireground except EMS.  The federal court found that this lash-up violated FLSA, and the personnel were entitled to back pay of T1.5 for every hour over 40 in every pay period.  In short, there are no exemptions from T1.5>40 except for bona-fide, dual-role, cross-trained fire-medics and fire-EMTs.

The on-call thing is beyond me.  This was pretty common in the 1970s but now you don't see it much - people usually simply refuse to work under such an arrangement.  Ditto for the lunch thing.  If you don't get a "protected meal break" where you are not subject to call of any sort, that is generally work.  But you really need to get this parsed out by someone who is a local expert on the subject.  It shouldn't be too hard to get a lawyer to take this case, as there are multiple people involved in a practice that has been going on for some time - hence the opportunity to get 3 years back pay times X number of people.

Good luck!

So what you are saying is about the OT law is that there are no exemptions from this law except the fire schedule, but considering we are just a private EMS service that can't apply for us.  ???

Skip Kirkwood said:

This is a complex question.  It is best handled by a labor lawyer IN THE STATE where the question arises.

FLSA is pretty simple - employees must be paid time and one-half for all hours worked over 40 in a 7-day period.  The hourly rate is not addressed, as long as that rate is over the minimum wage.  Quite a few states have additional requirements.

EMS can not use the "fire schedule" unless, of course, its personnel are also legitimate firefighters for a legitimate fire department organization.  There have been plenty of cases on the subject - the so-called 207(k) exemption, but the most recent and large one that comes to mind is Philadelphia.  In Philly, EMS folks work for the fire department, which gave them some firefighter training.  However, they never DID firefighting, and in fact were prohibited from doing anything on a fireground except EMS.  The federal court found that this lash-up violated FLSA, and the personnel were entitled to back pay of T1.5 for every hour over 40 in every pay period.  In short, there are no exemptions from T1.5>40 except for bona-fide, dual-role, cross-trained fire-medics and fire-EMTs.

The on-call thing is beyond me.  This was pretty common in the 1970s but now you don't see it much - people usually simply refuse to work under such an arrangement.  Ditto for the lunch thing.  If you don't get a "protected meal break" where you are not subject to call of any sort, that is generally work.  But you really need to get this parsed out by someone who is a local expert on the subject.  It shouldn't be too hard to get a lawyer to take this case, as there are multiple people involved in a practice that has been going on for some time - hence the opportunity to get 3 years back pay times X number of people.

Good luck!

There may be others somewhere, but I've never heard of anything unique to a private EMS service.  It sounds like somebody is trying to sell you a bill of goods, and pay less than is required.  But that is my lay person opinion - you really need a local labor lawyer to have a look at this.

What Skip said....

 

I'm familiar with several other EMS agencies in the southeast that used similar systems.  Every one of them that faced an employee lawsuit lost the suit and was liable for large sums of back pay, generally in the millions of dollars.

 

Get an attorney familiar with FLSA and the laws of your state if you wish to pursue this.

 

Also, realize that if a private agency is involved, they may not have the deep pocket required to generate a large volume of back pay, and if they're not insured for it, a large judgement or settlement requirement may bankrupt the company.

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