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Paramedics Win Overtime Lawsuit

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is very clear about the definition of overtime: it consists of all time spent working after eight hours a day or forty hours a week. Some employers try to get around the definition by paying their employees per pay period (for example, eighty hours per two weeks), but that is not the federal definition of overtime.

According to the FLSA, all hourly, nonexempt employees are entitled to one and one-half times their normal hourly rate for all overtime worked. Some employees can be qualified as exempt from overtime, but the FLSA is very specific about the requirements employees need to fulfill in order to qualify for the exemption.

The three main categories for overtime exemption are administrative, executive, and professional. The FLSA is very specific about the responsibilities needed for an employee to fit into each category.

The administrative category can only consist of workers who perform primarily office work and provide administrative assistance directly to an executive. The executive category can only be filled by workers who spend the majority of their time managing two or more employees. Finally, the professional category can only include those who require a particular set of skills or level of education in order to perform their jobs, such as lawyers, architects, doctors and teachers.

Although the eight-hour day for five workdays is standard, employees in many industries work odd hours, but employers still need to be sure they are properly compensating all their workers for all the time they spend at work.

A recent wage and hour class action lawsuit alleged the paramedics for the Chicago Fire Department Bureau of Emergency Medical Services were supposedly made to work overtime without the proper compensation. According to the lawsuit, the paramedics allegedly worked 24-hour shifts with days off in between. Because of the way the schedule worked out, this meant they often worked 48 hours in a week.

A federal judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered the city of Chicago to pay more than $3.7 million in unpaid overtime wages and penalty payments. The ruling was the result of four separate overtime class action lawsuits that were filed against the city between 2006 and 2012. The FLSA has a statute of limitations that requires plaintiffs to file their lawsuits within a certain time frame after the alleged crime has been committed.

But, in addition to the FLSA, each state has their own labor laws regulating things like minimum wage and overtime. Some of these local laws have a longer statute of limitations then the federal law, so depending on what state the plaintiffs are located in, it might make more sense to file for claims under the federal labor law, state labor law, or both.

Thanks to the federal judge’s recent ruling, more than 700 of the city’s paramedics who were class members involved in the lawsuit can now expect to receive a check in the mail. It is also likely the bureau, if it has not done so already, will soon be changing its policy regarding how it records paramedics’ hours and paying them accordingly.

The Chicago class action attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have three decades of experience fighting to help employees who are victims of wage, overtime and tip theft by their employers. We have a team of Chicago unpaid overtime lawyers who concentrate on prosecuting state and nationwide class action lawsuits. Our attorneys work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices and pursue claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Evanston and Waukegan. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.

Our Gurnee and Grayslake overtime lawyers are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers mis-classify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages.

The Chicago Overtime Law Center is based in Chicago, and represents clients throughout the country who have unpaid overtime and other employment right claims.