The FLSA exempts employees who are ?engaged in fire protection? from overtime pay. The question in this class action was whether fire department dispatchers and fire department aeromedical technicians (paramedics assigned to air ambulance helicopters) fell within the exemption.? ?The district court held that the plaintiffs fell outside the exemption and held that the three-year statute of limitations for willful violations applied.? ?The district court? awarded liquidated damages.? The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The dispatchers at issue worked in the Central Operations Control Division below Los Angeles ?City? Hall.?? ?They ?receive ?emergency calls and dispatch messages to the fire station and specific vehicles to be dispatched.? ?If the incident ?commander ?at ?the? scene? wants additional resources, the request goes to the dispatcher.?? ?Sometimes? dispatchers ?go? to? the scene to act as liaisons between the incident commander and operations.?? No dispatcher had worked at a fire scene in 10 years.?? They don?t carry fire protective gear and don?t handle firefighting equipment.? ?Most were trained as firefighters.
The aeromedical technicians spend the majority of their flights administrating medical care.?? ?They don?t carry the same gear as firefighters but they do wear fire protective suits in case there is a fire in the helicopter. ?The suits aren?t?? ?designed?? ?for?? ?fighting??? fires.?????? ?The helicopters are sometimes used to drop water on brush fires. ?If so, the technicians will load a hose and fittings on the helicopter. ?They sometimes fill the helicopter with fuel and water.? ?They do not ride in the helicopter when it drops water on the fire.
The FLSA section at issue defines ?fire protection activities? and includes people who are engaged in the prevention, control and extinguishment of fires or the response to an emergency situation where life, property or the environment is at risk. ?The FLSA section did not codify a prior DOL regulation that included rescue and ambulance service personnel.
Prior Ninth Circuit precedent had held that dual-function paramedics, those trained as paramedics and firefighters, did not fall within the exemption. ?It set out several factors for applying the exemption.? ?Here, the Court held that the exemption refers to those who are dispatched to the fire scene and actively engage the fire. ?The Court rejected the City?s argument that ?responsibility to engage in fire suppression? should be expanded to all ?those? employees ?who ?make? a? causal contribution to combating the fire, whether present at the scene or not. ?The Court relied in large part on Congress?s failure to incorporate the prior DOL regulation. The Court found a willful violation based on the prior Ninth Circuit precedent.? ?Also, the City reassigned the dispatchers to the Bureau responsible for firefighting only three months after the litigation began.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court?s damages calculation applying credits and offsets of paid overtime on a week-by-week approach. ?The circuits are split on whether this is the correct approach. ?The Ninth Circuit joined the Sixth and Seventh in conflict with the Fifth and Eleventh.
Haro ?v. ?Los ?Angeles, ?745 ?F.3d ?1249 ?(9th? ?Cir. 3/18/14) (Pregerson, Tallman, Simon (D. Or.)).