In Haro v. City of Los Angeles, ___ F.3d ___ (9th Cir. March 18, 2014), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (Judge Simon, District Judge for the District of Oregon, sitting by designation) granting plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on behalf of fire department employees who claimed they were entitled to unpaid overtime.
Plaintiffs, dispatchers and aeromedical technicians, brought a complaint against defendant fire department alleging that they had been denied overtime pay because they, unlike firefighters, were not “engaged in fire protection” and, therefore, did not fall within a specified exemption under the FLSA. Plaintiffs also asserted that the overtime violations were willful and in bad faith and, therefore, the FLSA’s statute of limitations should be extended from two years to three years and liquidated damages should be available. The parties then filed cross-motions for summary judgment, based on stipulated facts. The district court granted plaintiffs’ motion and defendant appealed.
The appellate court affirmed, agreeing that plaintiffs did not fall within the FLSA’s exemption for employees “engaged in fire protection.” Dispatchers, the court noted, primarily receive emergency calls and send a dispatch message to the fire station and any specific vehicles to be dispatched. Aeromedical technicians spend the majority of their flights administering medical care. Therefore, the court determined, these employees did not have the legal authority and responsibility to engage in fire suppression under the FLSA. The court also agreed that that the statute of limitations should be extended and that liquidated damages should be available because defendant could not show good faith or reasonable grounds for violating the FLSA.