North Carolina paramedics are often the first to get to the scene of an accident. They are expected to quickly assess the situation and keep victims alive until they get to the hospital. This dedication to saving lives requires many first responders to work more than a standard employee does. As a result, many paramedics may be eligible to receive overtime pay for the additional hours they work.
Unfortunately, not all receive the pay they are due. Understanding paramedic employee exemptions from overtime pay law in North Carolina is key to determining whether your employer owes you for the extra hours you worked.
Gibbons Law Group can help: 704-612-0038.
Are paramedics exempt from overtime?
Paramedics are typically not exempt from overtime; however, employers must carefully evaluate all employees to determine their exemption status under the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Before we determine the employee’s status, we have to make sure the FLSA covers the employer.
The FLSA covers all employers involved in interstate commerce or that earn over $500,000 a year. The good news is that a vast majority of paramedic employers meet these requirements and, therefore, must adhere to FLSA regulations.
Assuming the FLSA covers your employer, the next step will be determining whether you are eligible to receive overtime under the FLSA criteria.
The FLSA requires that employers pay their non-exempt employees overtime for the hours they work beyond a standard workweek. However, if you are an exempt employee, the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime laws will not apply to you. Exempt employees’ job descriptions and salaries must meet the following criteria:
- Must be a salaried employee
- Must make a minimum of $455 per week
- Must have job duties that are administrative, professional, or executive tasks. These duties may require advanced knowledge, talent in certain creative fields, supervising other workers, independent decision making, and other white-collar tasks.
Generally, paramedics are not exempt based on their job descriptions, even if they earn more than the minimum salary. Therefore, they are eligible to receive overtime pay from their employer.
Note: Employees who work for small public agencies with fewer than five employees involved in fire protection work per workweek are an exception to this general rule and are exempt from overtime pay.
What regulations and exemptions apply to paramedics?
There are some FLSA issues and exemptions that only apply to first responders, firefighters, and other employees who save lives in emergency situations.
Some Paramedics and Rescue Workers are “Fire Protection Personnel” Under the FLSA
The FLSA may characterize paramedics, ambulance personnel, emergency medical technicians, and other rescue workers as “fire protection personnel” if they meet the following criteria; as such, they are subject to fire personnel exemptions. Fire protection personnel:
- Are employed by a fire department in a municipality, county, state, or fire district.
- Are trained on how to suppress fires.
- Are legally permitted and responsible for handling fire suppression.
- Play a role in preventing, controlling, or extinguishing fires or is involved in responding to emergencies where life, environment, or property is in danger.
If an employee that meets these criteria is engaged in other non-exempt work, the employee will still qualify as a fire protection employee under the FLSA.
Section 7(k) Allows Overtime for “Work Periods”
Non-fire protection employees generally receive overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours per week. However, this standard does not always make sense for EMTs, paramedics, and other rescue workers who work odd hours and long shifts. Under Section 7(k) of the FLSA, fire protection employees who work for the government may receive payment for overtime depending on work periods.
Work periods allow paramedics to receive overtime pay if they work more than 212 hours in 28 days. If the work period is shorter than 28 days (seven days is the shortest work period), the employer can prorate the number of hours depending on the length of the work period. For example, an EMT with a seven-day work period would have to work 53 hours before receiving overtime.
Government Employers May Pay Paramedics in Compensatory Time
If the paramedics and their employers come to an understanding in advance, employers may pay their employees overtime in compensatory time. This means that workers may get time off at a rate of 1.5 hours for each overtime hour worked in lieu of receiving 1.5 times their base pay in cash. Employees must be allowed to use this compensatory time off whenever they want to unless it unduly disrupts agency operations.
Compensation for Food, On-Call, and Sleep Time
Because paramedics often work shifts that are longer than the standard eight hours, they may have to eat and sleep while on the job. Sometimes, employees must be on-call and be available for emergencies.
In some circumstances, employers may exclude sleep time and meal and on-call periods from hours worked unless the employee is working through lunch or while on-call.
Determining how your employer can pay you and what your employer can rightfully exclude can be complex. Our attorneys can help determine whether your employer wrongfully excluded some of your hours on the clock.
Phil Gibbons, Charlotte, NC employee rights lawyer, can help paramedic employees recover unpaid overtime.
Whether it be intentionally or unintentionally, many employers do not abide by FLSA overtime regulations. Some common violations include:
- Failure to include all work-related tasks in total work hours
- Implementing work periods without properly informing the employee
- Misclassifying non-exempt employees as exempt
- Wrongfully excluding sleep and meal time
Paramedics devote their lives to saving others and deserve fair compensation for all the hours they put into their work. At Gibbons Law Group, we are determined to make sure you receive the overtime pay you deserve. We have a thorough understanding of all applicable FLSA exemptions and we will use that knowledge to establish your eligibility for overtime and calculate the total amount your employer owes you. If your employer owes you money, you can file a lawsuit to ensure you get the compensation you deserve.
Call Gibbons Law Group at 704-612-0038 to move forward with your claim today.