Air Methods, Inc., the country’s largest air medical transport company, has reached a $78 million settlement with approximately 450 current and former employees following a class-action lawsuit alleging the company failed to pay overtime as required by California law.
Flight crew members filed their suit in California’s Alameda County Superior Court in 2013. They alleged Air Methods failed to pay overtime after working more than 8 hours in a day and failed to provide adequate meal and rest periods as required by California law. According to EMS 1, each plaintiff will receive approximately $100,000 in back wages and damages. While the sheer size of the monetary settlement involved makes this settlement noteworthy, there is another important aspect of this litigation that can prove a valuable lesson for employers moving forward.
Here, the plaintiffs did not appear to argue any federal wage and hour issues during the course of litigation. Meaning that the FLSA was not a factor in their claims. This may surprise some employers and employees alike, that automatically assume wage and hour litigation must stem from the FLSA and/or Department of Labor (DOL) regulations. Nothing could be further from the truth. The plaintiffs’ claims arose solely within California’s vast array of employment regulations.
Compliance with state wage and hour regulations may only be an after-thought for many well-intentioned employers. This can lead to problems in the event a state or even local government has adopted enhanced wage and hour rules above and beyond what is required under the FLSA. While municipal government employers may be exempt from certain provisions of enhanced state wage and hour laws, they may not be exempt from all. It is critically important that professionals responsible for paying public safety workers (i.e. law enforcement, fire and rescue, public safety dispatchers, EMTs, etc.) are well-versed in both the FLSA and local wage and hour laws.
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