Ninth Circuit: Fire Department Dispatchers and Aeromedical Technicians Not Exempt From the FLSA

Workers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) must be paid overtime for all hours worked in excess of 40 in a week.  However, many workers are exempt from this overtime provision.  In Haro v. City of Los Angeles, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had to decide whether fire department dispatchers and aeromedical technicians are covered by the exemption to the FLSA for workers “engaged in fire protection.”  Under the exemption, workers engaged in fire protection are only owed overtime if they work over 212 hours in a 28-day period.   

The Court determined that workers covered by the “engaged in fire protection” exemption “must have some real obligation or duty to…deal with” fire suppression.  The Court concluded that neither the dispatchers nor the aeromedical technicians fit that description.  The dispatchers work from the basement in City Hall and have no obligation to actually engage in fire suppression.  And the technicians are responsible for providing medical treatment on helicopters, not suppressing fire.  Therefore, the Court concluded that the City violated the law when it failed to provide overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 40 in a week by the dispatchers and technicians.

The Court’s decision comes at an interesting time.  President Obama recently signed a memorandum directing the Department of Labor to make changes to overtime exemptions so that more workers are eligible for overtime under the FLSA.  This will be the first change in overtime regulations since 2004.  We will provide an update on these new federal regulations if, and when, they are finalized.

By Jake White | April 1, 2014

Legal Developments