Tennessee County Facing FLSA Suit from Medic

Gary Perry, a paramedic for Montgomery County Emergency Medical Services, has filed a federal lawsuit alleging the county fails to pay him and other similarly situated medics overtime as required by the FLSA. According to Perry’s complaint—which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee on October 28—the county does not provide Perry and other EMTs overtime after they work 40 hours in a single week. Here are his specific allegations:

  • Defendant (Montgomery County EMS) is the sole 911 provider for Clarksville-Montgomery County, providing 24-hour emergency medical transportation, rope rescue, dive rescue/recovery, trench rescue, tactical medics and many other specialized rescue operations.
  • Defendant staffs one-hundred and sixteen (116) Paramedics, Critical Care Paramedics, Registered Nurses and Advanced Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs).
  • Defendant hired Perry in 1990. Most recently, Perry served as the Captain District Chief Paramedic for the Montgomery County EMS.
  • At all relevant times, Perry was a non-exempt employee who was entitled to be paid time and a half for hours over forty (40) worked in any workweek.
  • In total, Defendant employed approximately three captains and nine lieutenants who worked for the Montgomery County EMS at any given time.
  • Perry and the Collective Class either work or have worked within the past three years for the Montgomery County EMS as non-exempt FLSA employees.
  • In his role as the Captain District Chief Paramedic, Perry scheduled people for work and helped with the paramedics. Perry was not involved in the budgeting, hiring, firing, establishing rates of pay, hours worked, or conducting training sessions.
  • In his role as the Captain District Chief Paramedic, Perry was required to work 120 hours for two weeks, 120 hours for the next two weeks, and then 96 hours for the final two-week period. This work cycle repeated every six weeks for Perry and the Collective Class.
  • Plaintiff was paid $38.61 per hour for all worked performed, regardless if the work exceeded forty (40) hours per week.
  • Perry is similarly-situated to Defendants other Paramedics, EMTs, Captains, and Lieutenants, who work for Montgomery County EMS, in that a common practice and policy of refusing to pay overtime at a rate of not less than one and one-half times their regular rate of pay affected all current and former Paramedics, EMTs, Captains, and Lieutenants.
  • Perry is similarly situated to the Members of the Class because they all were Paramedics, EMTs, Lieutenants, or Captains that performed the same job duties, as all of them responded to the perceived need for immediate medical care in order to prevent loss of life or aggravation of illness or injury; they were all paid hourly rates of pay; and they were all subject to the Defendant’s unlawful policy and practice of refusing to properly pay overtime wages for work performed in excess of forty hours.
  • Defendant’s failure to pay overtime compensation as required by the FLSA results from a policy or practice applicable to Perry and the Members of the Class. Application of this policy or practice does not depend on the personal circumstances of Perry or those joining this lawsuit. Rather, the same policy or practice that resulted in the non-payment of overtime to Perry applied to all Members of the Class. Accordingly, the class is properly defined as: All current and Former Paramedics, EMTs, Lieutenants, and Captains (or their functional equivalents) who have performed work for Defendant with Montgomery County EMS, but who were not paid overtime for work performed that exceeded forty (40) hours per week.
  • Defendant knowingly, willfully, or with reckless disregard carried out its illegal pattern or practice of failing to properly pay overtime compensation with respect to Perry and the Members of the Class.

From the complaint, it looks like Perry’s attorney is anticipating the County will likely argue that Perry is an overtime exempt “white-collar” employee in its defense. Whether or not any employee is an overtime exempt “white-collar” employee depends on the specific facts. A few of the relevant factors a court would likely consider in making this determination include whether:

  • Perry is assigned to a 24-hour shift?
  • Perry is relatively free from supervision from higher ranking officers?
  • Perry exercises discretion when responding to emergency calls for service?
  • Perry is paid on a salary basis?

As a general rule, rank-and-file EMTs and other emergency service workers are clearly entitled to overtime pay. However, whether EMS supervisors can be rightfully classified as overtime exempt employees requires an in-depth analysis of the way they are paid and the duties they perform.

We will keep an eye on this one as it develops. Here is a copy of the complaint. 

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