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Leadership/Management

Court Gives Prelim OK to Settlement in Air Methods Suit

A California judge has preliminarily approved the $78 million settlement of a lawsuit for unpaid overtime and missed breaks brought by former and current medical flight crew members against Air Methods Corp., the nation’s largest air-medical transport company.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Winifred Y. Smith will issue a final ruling on the settlement at a subsequent hearing. This settlement follows an earlier, partial settlement of more than $4.2 million in 2018 that covered other claims of off-the-clock work.

The original and related follow-on actions were Helmick, et al. vs. Air Methods Corp. in Alameda County Superior Court and Lyons, et al. v. Air Methods Corp. in U.S. District Court. Plaintiffs were represented by Oakland attorney James Sitkin, joined by Joshua Konecky and Leslie Joyner of Schneider Wallace Cottrell Konecky LLP.

Sitkin says around 450 current and ex-employees will each receive about $100,000 on average. Air Methods also will begin paying daily and weekly overtime to its medical flight crews.

Air-medical crews commonly work 24-hour shifts during which they must stay at base and be on call, Sitkin notes in a release. Air Methods was not paying daily overtime generally required under California law for working more than eight hours, and it was not counting up to eight of crew members’ 24 hours on base toward weekly overtime, calling it a “sleep period.” The company also refused crew off-duty meal or rest breaks or pay extra pay in their absence as California law generally requires.

Smith distinguished rules limiting overtime and breaks for ambulance attendants from those for flight crew. She rejected a defense that the federal Airline Deregulation Act exempted Air Methods from California’s meal/rest break law.

Air Methods also argued that Proposition 11, passed by California voters in November 2018, qualified flight crew rights to meal/rest breaks. Smith found Prop 11 had been crafted to extinguish retroactively claims before it was passed, questioning its constitutionality.

 

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