An FLSA lawsuit filed by more than 2,500 FDNY EMTs and Paramedics back in 2013 is inching towards a conclusion after a federal judge dismissed the city’s most recent attempt for a new trial last week. This latest decision comes on the heels of a 2019 trial in which a jury awarded the FDNY EMTs and medics over $14 million in back wages and damages. The EMTs’ and medics’ claims centered primarily around the city’s failure to pay for work performed immediately before and after their assigned shifts. For more on the jury’s decision, click here.
The city was also ordered to pay the EMTs and medics attorneys more $3.3 million in fees and expenses. It is standard practice, in FLSA litigation, for employers to be responsible for the employees’ attorneys’ fees and expenses, if the employees’ claims are proven. Between back wages, damages, and the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees, the city is on the hook for more than $17.7 million. Additionally, the city likely expended a significant amount of money mounting its own legal defense.
Wage and hour litigation is a highly complex and specialized area of the law. Most employers, even employers with large in-house legal departments, must employ outside counsel to defend FLSA claims. This is part of the reason why FLSA litigation can be so expensive. It is not uncommon in FLSA litigation for an employers’ total legal fees to exceed the amount of back wages owed to impacted employees.
Finally, this case can serve as an important example of the many hazards associated with managing the hours’ worked for firefighters and other first responders. The EMTs and medics claims centered around FDNY’s policies, procedures, and practices pertaining to pre-and-post shift work activities. For example, does your organization have a practice or policy that requires employees pass-on information from the previous shift to the oncoming shift? Does your organization require EMS staff to account for equipment and medications at the start and at the end of their assigned shift?
Claims for unpaid pre-and-post shift activities are on the rise. Best practice requires employers be prepared for such claims. The first step in this preparation process requires employers understand the basic principles surrounding the FLSA and how it applies to firefighters and other first responders. These principles are covered in-depth at all of the FLSA for Fire Departments live webinars. The next is scheduled for October 5-8, 2021. Please consider joining us.
Click here, for more on the story from New York’s Daily News.
Here is a copy of the latest ruling.