Four Louisiana paramedics claim their employer, the Parish of Plaquemines, Louisiana, failed to pay them any time and one-half over the past three years, despite working 7-day, 168-hour work shifts. The complaint, which was filed last week in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana contains some very unique and interesting facts. We have allegations of unpaid overtime, sleep and meal time deductions, and even the possibility of on-call pay.
Plaintiffs Keith Babin, Kevin Burge, Joshua Dismukes, and Barbara Tate all work as either paramedics or emergency medical technicians for the rural Parish of Plaquemines, Louisiana. They are scheduled to work 7 days on-duty, followed by seven days off-duty. Housing for the medics is provided by the parish.
The paramedics claim they must be able to respond to emergency calls at all times during their 7-day work shifts and are required to be in the ambulance and responding to emergencies within 6 minutes of any call. They are only allowed to make infrequent short trips out for food or necessities and “their freedom of activity is heavily restricted” during the 7-day work shifts.
Even though the medics are required to remain on-duty and on-call within the parish for all 168 hours every 7-day work shift, sometimes the medics are only paid for 132 hours per workweek. The parish deducts 6 hours of sleep and meal time for 6 out of the 7 nights medics work. But, if medics are called out on an emergency call during “normal sleeping hours” they receive what the parish refers to as straight overtime. According to the medics’ complaint, straight overtime is paid at the medics’ normal regular hourly rate, not time and one-half.
Department of Labor (DOL) regulations allow employers to exclude certain meal and sleep periods from hours worked if certain requirements are met. Employers that want to utilize sleep and meal time deductions need to carefully evaluate the DOL rules to ensure compliance. More on sleep and meal time deductions can be found at 29 C.F.R. 785.22. Whether the parish followed DOL requirements regarding sleep and meal time deductions will be a question for the court to decide.
Finally, the medics claim the parish fails to pay any time and one-half for hours worked over 40 during any 7-day work shift. According to the medics all hours worked are paid at the straight hourly rate of pay. Generally speaking, if the medics allegations are proven true, it would be extremely difficult for the parish to avoid liability on this issue. The FLSA requires non-exempt employees receive time and one-half for all hours worked over 40 every 7 days.
This will be an interesting case to watch as it develops. Interesting facts to say the least.
Here is a copy of the complaint.