EMS can be full of interesting and tricky legal scenarios. While you can’t have an attorney ride with you, it behooves providers to have at least some familiarity with the principles, precedents, and major issues of EMS law. To that end EMS World is pleased to offer the EMS Legal Lesson of the Month.
These cases are presented by prominent attorneys in the EMS field. This month’s comes from Larry Bennett, program chair for fire science and emergency management at the University of Cincinnati. Bennett’s department publishes a monthly Fire & EMS and Safety Law newsletter; subscribe to that by e-mailing Lawrence.firstname.lastname@example.org or read the latest edition here. Find this case and more in his section on EMS cases.
Case: Kyle Blake v. City of Montgomery, Ala.
Decided: October 2020
Verdict: The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama granted the city’s motion for summary judgment.
Facts: Due to short staffing, Blake and other firefighter-paramedics often were required to work 48-hour shifts, contrary to department regulations. On August 21, 2018, Blake worked his regularly scheduled 24-hour shift; the following morning, his district chief told him he’d also have to work the next 24 as overtime. In response Blake said he “couldn’t do it anymore” and “would turn my stuff in if I needed to.”
When apprised of the conversation by the district chief, the assistant fire chief determined Blake would not be allowed to return to work; he then told Blake his resignation had been accepted. Blake sued, contending he should have qualified for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.
Key quote: “Blake’s statements…that he ‘couldn’t do it anymore,’ that he would ‘turn [his] stuff in,’ and that he needed to speak with his wife to sort this out simply do not rise to a level sufficient to give the city notice he was experiencing a serious medical condition, let alone a qualifying medical condition, of any sort for which he wanted, needed, or should be given FMLA leave.”
Legal lesson: Don’t let frustration get the better of you. When facing burnout, request FMLA leave or call your EAP.