A New York jury has found the City of New York violated the FLSA by not paying EMTs for the time spent working before and after assigned shifts. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, on February 13, 2013 by more than 2,500 FDNY EMTs and paramedics. According to attorneys representing the EMTs, the verdict will likely cost the city millions of dollars in back wages.
Specifically, the EMTs alleged the city had a practice of allowing/encouraging EMTs to both arrive at work early (in order to prepare for the upcoming shift) and stay late beyond their scheduled shift (in order to re-stock and ready the ambulance and other equipment for the next shift). According to the Daily News, the jury returned the verdict in favor of the plaintiff EMTs following a three-week trial after deliberating only two hours.
As regular FirefighterOvertime readers are aware, the FLSA requires employers pay overtime eligible employees for all hours worked. Generally, this includes time spent working before and after assigned shifts. Off-the-clock FLSA claims, like those made by these EMTs are on the rise. There are several simple steps that employers can take to prepare themselves and their agencies for these types of claims.
First, managers and chief officers of emergency service agencies must develop a knowledge of the FLSA and how it applies to their organization. A fundamental understanding of the FLSA’s basic wage and hour requirements will prove necessary in avoiding these types of errors from the outset. Second, develop and implement departmental policies related to worktime, overtime, off-the-clock work, and a variety of other wage and hour topics. These policies can form the frame-work necessary to avoid potential litigation and minimize the financial impact from any litigation that may occur. Finally, review and keep accurate records as required by both the FLSA and state law. Complete and accurate records will prove crucial in minimizing potential damages that could be awarded as result of uncompensated off-the-clock claims.
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