FLSA Overtime Suit Filed in Kansas City

A Kansas City, Missouri Fire Department EMT has filed a class action lawsuit against the city alleging that overtime pay for EMTs and paramedics has been improperly calculated.

Marissa Hermsen filed suit yesterday alleging that EMTs and paramedics should receive overtime compensation after working forty hours per week. The Federal suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri alleging a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The crux of the problem appears to involve the FLSA’s §207(k) exemption that allows firefighter to work up to 53 hours per week (212 hours in a 28 day period) without triggering the overtime requirement. Since April, 2010, KCFD has been operating the city’s former MAST ambulance service that employs roughly  140 paramedics and 1,000 EMTs. As non-firefighters, the §207(k) exemption would not apply to EMTs and paramedics unless they are cross trained and serve as an “integral part of the public agency’s fire protection activities.”

The following is from the FLSA:

29 USC § 203. Definitions

(y) “Employee in fire protection activities” means an employee, including a firefighter, paramedic, emergency medical technician, rescue worker, ambulance personnel, or hazardous materials worker, who—

(1) is trained in fire suppression, has the legal authority and responsibility to engage in fire suppression, and is employed by a fire department of a municipality, county, fire district, or State; and

(2) is engaged in the prevention, control, and extinguishment of fires or response to emergency situations where life, property, or the environment is at risk.

The situation has caused considerable turmoil amongst EMS personnel who historically worked 40 hours a week. Here is a link to a story about some of the issues.

And here is a copy of the complaint that was filed yesterday. KansasCity

According to IAFF Local 42 President Louis Wright, the city’s practice does not appear to violate the FLSA and was thoroughly researched. More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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