Haro v. City of Los Angeles

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Labor Law
  • Date Filed: 03-18-2014
  • Case #: 12-55062; 12-55310; 12-55076; 12-55303
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Pregerson for the Court; Circuit Judge Tallman and District Judge Simon
  • Full Text Opinion

Fire department employees whose job duties do not included fire suppression are entitled to standard overtime pay pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act because they do not fall within the “engaged in fire protection” exemption.

Classified as employees “engaged in fire protection,” fire department dispatchers and aeromedical technicians working for the City of Los Angeles (the City) alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) for unpaid standard overtime pay. An exception in the FLSA allows the City to pay those employees on a different overtime schedule, creating lost overtime wages. The job duties of dispatchers include receiving emergency calls, sending dispatch messages, and occasionally supporting field employees during large incidents. Aeromedical technicians support air ambulances, and administer medical care during flights, occasionally the helicopters drop water during brush fires. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, and held a three-year statute of limitations applies rather than the two-year, because of intentional conduct on the part of the City. The district court ordered the use of a calculation for overtime damages, using offsets for previously-paid overtime calculated on a week-by-week basis. The Ninth Circuit found Congress explicitly left out portions of prior definitions that included incidental non-firefighting employees when enacting FLSA. The panel held dispatchers do not have a “responsibility to engage in fire suppression” under the plain meaning of the statute and prior case law. Cross-training employees, such as firefighters, do not change this result. The panel held the same for aeromedical technicians, as none of their duties are activities “normally associated with suppressing a fire.” The panel held the City willfully violated FLSA because it had previously litigated the meaning of the firefighting exception, then took no steps to discover the extent of their obligations as to plaintiffs after being found liable in similar circumstances. Additionally, the City reassigned the dispatchers to a department engaged in fire and emergency services after litigation commenced. The panel affirmed the district court’s grant of liquidated damages and overtime damages calculation method. AFFIRMED.

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