San Diego Settles FLSA Lawsuit With Helicopter Rescue Medics

The City of San Diego has settled a lawsuit filed by six helicopter rescue medics for a total of $307,000. The rescue medics work for the city’s fire and rescue department providing medical and logistical support for the city’s air ambulances. Historically, the city classified these medics as §207(k) firefighters. The medics claimed they did not have any “responsibility to engage in fire suppression” activities and therefore should not be classified as 7(k) firefighters.

In January of 2017, the city changed its compensation practices and began paying helicopter rescue medics overtime after working 40 hours in a 7-day workweek. However, in this lawsuit the medics sought back overtime wages for the years before the city changed pay practices. As part of the settlement, all six employees will receive some back wages, although two employees will receive the “lion’s share”. The terms of the settlement are as follows:

  • $125,000 for unpaid overtime compensation
  • $125,000 for liquidated damages (typically double the wages owed)
  • $57,000 for attorney fees (medics atty. fees)

The distinction between 7(k) and non-7(k) employees is significant. Under the FLSA, when employees are properly classified as 7(k) firefighters they are only eligible for overtime for hours worked over 53 in a week, or 212 in 28 days. Fire department employees that are not considered 7(k) firefighters are most likely eligible for overtime for all hours worked over 40 in 7 days. Misclassifying employees as exempt (or partially exempt) is a leading cause of FLSA lawsuits and can prove a very costly error for employers.

In order to meet the FLSA’s §207(k) requirements a firefighter must:

  1. Be employed by a public fire department,
  2. Be trained in fire suppression,
  3. Have the legal authority and responsibility to engage in fire suppression; AND
  4. Be engaged in the prevention, control and extinguishment of fires or response to emergency situations.

Here is a copy of the settlement:

Links v. San Diego FLSA Settlement


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