A month after a Greenwood Village-based air ambulance company agreed to pay $ 825,000 to clarify allegations that it violated Federal Aviation Administration regulations, a judge launched a class action lawsuit from employees who alleged they did are underpaid, illuminated in green.
Airline paramedics and nurses in Michigan, New Mexico, and Illinois sued Air Methods Corporation in February 2019 for failing to adequately compensate them for overtime under their state’s wage laws. They tried to take legal action on behalf of the employees in the same situation because they were “largely damaged by fraud through the unjust enrichment of Air Methods,” the federal complaint said.
Air Methods paramedics and nurses work 24-hour shifts, with eight hours of the day being the “sleep time” the company pays for. If employees have at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep, the entire sleep time is not included in overtime pay. Around 634 people are employed in the three states covered by the lawsuit.
“I needed to be on the ground my entire shift and be ready to respond promptly to emergencies that required air ambulance services,” said Susan Brzezinski, who worked for Air Methods in Michigan for nearly six years.
The plaintiffs viewed such a calculation as a violation of wage laws. Last year, 450 Air Methods California employees benefited from a $ 78 million settlement after similar claims were made regarding overtime and employee breaks.
This process also resulted in a change in Air Methods’ policy, which “puts our teammates first,” said a company spokesman.
In a Dec. 29 ruling, U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson upheld the lawsuit as a class action lawsuit in Colorado and dismissed Air Methods’ argument that employees who spent part of their working weeks outside their home states did not receive wages in those states legislation was covered.
“Air ambulance workers in geographic areas where their flights frequently cross state lines and whose hours in one or both states would not exceed 40 per week would lose the protection that air ambulance workers have who rarely or never cross state lines when their working weeks would be same, ”he wrote. “AMC’s argument, apparently made in an effort to avoid class certification, is not convincing.”
Jackson added that it was “impractical” to litigate claims on an individual basis as compensation for some employees could be as low as $ 1,000. However, the judge dismissed plaintiffs’ claim for unjust enrichment against Air Methods, stating that their wage claims alone would constitute the remedy they wanted.
On Jackson’s orders, Air Methods filed a motion to dismiss the case. The Fair Labor Law, the company argued, “specifically allows employees who are on duty 24 hours or more to agree with their employer not to exclude sleep periods of no more than eight hours from hours worked, provided the employer provides Adequate sleep is available and the employee can usually enjoy an uninterrupted night’s sleep. “
Air Methods also claimed that each of the three states now covered by class action appear to allow similar sleep time exemptions from wage calculations.
In contrast, Air Methods plaintiffs called on the court to “enact new law for states” because their treatment of sleep time was not specifically in accordance with federal law.
Jackson has a trial scheduled to begin July 12th.
In November, Air Methods agreed to pay $ 825,000 to settle claims by the US Department of Justice that pilot tubes in one of its aircraft were “badly corroded”. A Federal Aviation Administration inspector discovered the deficiencies that affect the functionality of the autopilot. The company denied that it violated safety regulations or that the corroded tubes pose a significant risk.
Air Methods leads 65,000 transports per year, which corresponds to approximately 150,000 flight hours.