Honolulu Medics Allege FLSA Overtime Violations

EMTs and paramedics have filed a Fair Labor Standards suit against the city and county of Honolulu claiming they have been wrongfully denied overtime compensation. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii.

Medics claim they have not been paid overtime for all the hours they work in excess of 40 hours per week. The suit seeks compensation for those extra hours going back three years, the maximum period that employees are allowed to go back under the FLSA. It also asks the court for an injunction against further violations, along with penalties and attorneys fees.

Paramedic Sonya Adams is one of the lead plaintiffs in the case. She was quoted as saying  “Every pay period employees enter our time correctly, but when we get our paychecks, there are shortages in overtime for many of us that can take as long as six years to correct. We love our jobs and helping people in emergency situations, but none of us can afford to wait six years to get paid.

Plaintiff’s attorney, Carl Varady was quoted as saying “All employers including the City must obey federal overtime law and regulations. Honolulu residents receive valuable and life saving services from their EMTs and Paramedics. Federal law requires that they be paid overtime when they work more than 40 hours in a week.”

More on the story.

UPDATE: 12/19/2012: Here is the Complaint in the Adams suit. HonoluluEMS

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.
  • Ferg

    Wish I could hear what the city’s argument is. 203(y) is pretty clear to me: if you’re not trained in suppression, and you don’t “do” suppression, you’re not considered “an employee in fire protection activities”. I seem to recall a very similar case on the east coast a number of years ago. As I remember, the single-role EMTs and medics won back-pay and were to receive OT for everything over 40 hours.

    • Freg

      I tried to get a copy of the complaint to better understand the allegations but it was not available. You are absolutely correct – if the city/county was treating them as firefighters subject to the 53 hour rule – they are going to lose. However, I am not sure that that is what was going on. The article quotes the lead plaintiff as saying that the city/county pays them for overtime – but only after the employees have to battle for it – in one case it took 6 years. It may be that they are justing making life difficult for their employees (so folks think that is good management) or perhaps it bureaucratic incompetence.

      I’ll see if I can track down a copy of the complaint.

  • Jacob Dickman

    In the early 1990’s paramedics for the Chicago Fire Department sued and won a judgement that sounds like the exact same issue brought up here. They were paid back pay for all hours over 40 and to this day reciever an FLSA check for compensation over 40 hours. I do not recall the lead plaintiff in the case but it should not be too hard to find.

  • Ferg

    A fairly recent case out of the 3rd District does a good job of covering the tests (some simple, some not so) used by other courts in similar suits.

    In Lawrence v. City of Philadelphia, the court briefly reviews similar cases across the country (such as Vela v. City of Houston, Cleveland v. City of Los Angeles, McGavock v. City of Water Valley, Huff v. DeKalb County). Bored? Read on: http://www.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/064564p.pdf


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