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.

  • This is what happens when a merger is ill conceived and researched–don’t let anyone tell you this transition from non-profit to FD is a smooth one! We also have a pension mess to deal with, all of which will cost KCMO money and/or break promises made to the EMS folks.

  • SKC Observer

    Perhaps you can fill in some details for us. Were the EMS workers trained as firefighters before they were expected to increase their hours, and were they compensated for the additional hours they were expected to work each week?

  • EMT

    We were not trained through the fire academy. We do not have fire 1 & 2 classification. The only certification we have received is Hazmat Awareness. The city and fire department took our base monthly salary and left it the same. We do not make a single penny more than what we made before this takeover. In fact our city has had a 3 year cost of living pay freeze.

  • Thanks EMT

    The FLSA says to be considered a firefighter under the 7(k) exemption you must be “trained in fire suppression, [have] the legal authority and responsibility to engage in fire suppression, and [be] employed by a fire department of a municipality, county, fire district, or State.” I am not sure that NFPA 1001 Level I and II are mandatory – nor fire academy training, but you would think the court will expect some minimum level of firefighting training would be appropriate.

    Hazmat awareness is fine for a librarian or a school teacher – not for a firefighter.


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