Labor & Employment Law Daily Liquidated damages due: Paramedics stiffed on pre- and post-shift work get over $14M
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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Liquidated damages due: Paramedics stiffed on pre- and post-shift work get over $14M

By Lisa Milam, J.D.

A class of 2,519 paramedics and EMTs will share almost $14.5 million after a jury found the FDNY willfully violated the FLSA.

A federal district court in New York entered final judgment in favor of New York City paramedics and EMTs after a jury, following a three-week trial, found the city willfully violated the FLSA by failing to compensate the workers for duties they performed before and after their regular shifts. The parties agreed to a backpay figure of $7.238 million for the class of 2,519 FDNY employees, but the city argued to no avail against liquidated damages. The court doubled the backpay and ordered the city to pay nearly $14.5 million in damages to the class, plus an additional $3.3 million to class counsel. In a subsequent ruling, the court approved a $77,775 settlement separately resolving the wage claims of 27 fire safety inspectors in the class (Perry v. City of New York, February 5, 2020, Broderick, V.).

The court’s judgment comes after a jury verdict following a three-week trial held in October 2019. A unanimous jury found that the city had “suffered or permitted” the EMTs and paramedics to work off-the-clock prior to the start of their normal shifts, and after their shifts concluded. The jury also found the city’s failure to pay the employees for the compensable pre- and post-shift work was done in reckless disregard of the law.

The defendants opposed the plaintiffs’ motion for liquidated damages. However, in a previous ruling, the court had concluded that the Second Circuit’s 1997 decision in Pollisv. New School for Social Research was dispositive. In that case, the appeals court held that a jury finding of willfulness negates the court’s discretion to find that the employer acted in good-faith and thus deny liquidated damages for FLSA violations.

Moreover, Pollis aside, the court observed that it had instructed the jury on willfulness. As such, “[i]n addition to being illogical, entering final judgment that denies liquidated damages after the jury answered “YES” to my willfulness question would arguably run afoul of the Seventh Amendment.” Therefore, the court granted the plaintiffs’ motion for entry of a final judgment, with an order of liquidated damages included.

Separately, in a February 13 ruling, the court granted preliminary approval to a settlement entered into pre-trial, resolving the claims of fire safety inspectors who had joined the class (including $35,544 in backpay and $42,231 in liquidated damages) and dismissing their claims with prejudice.

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