Air medical company agrees to $78M settlement for overtime

The class-action lawsuit involves about 450 former and current medical flight personnel


Angela Ruggiero
The Mercury News

OAKLAND, Calif. — A medical helicopter operator has been ordered to pay $78 million to its flight crew employees for unpaid overtime and missed breaks in a class-action lawsuit settlement.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Winifred Y. Smith agreed Wednesday to the preliminary settlement filed by about 450 former and current medical flight crew members employed in California by Air Methods Corporation of Colorado.

Air Methods also is expected to pay daily overtime to its medical flight crew starting from June 28, resulting in an estimated 20% or more increase to their salaries, according to the attorneys representing the crew.

Air Methods is reportedly the country’s largest air medical transport company and operates helicopter bases. Teams of nurses and paramedics are dispatched in the helicopters, often to remote areas.

Air Methods was accused of refusing to pay daily overtime for crews working more than eight hours in a workday. The flight crew commonly worked 24-hour shifts, according to attorney James Sitkin, who represented the crew. He alleged that Air Methods did not allow the flight crew to take off-duty meal breaks or rest breaks.

“When Loyd and Shane (the original plaintiffs) first came to me and described the company’s pay policies, and on top of that how it was having flight crews work unpaid extra time, it just struck me as wrong,” Sitkin said in a statement.

Since Judge Smith’s preliminarily approved the settlement Wednesday, final approval is expected in October.

It’s estimated each plaintiff will receive more than $100,000 each, on average.

Doug Flanders, director of communications for Air Methods Corporation, said in a statement that the changes in pay are positive and focus on how the company treats uninterrupted sleep time and their approach to the states’ daily and weekly overtime. The changes will result in a “gross pay increase” for all AMC clinicians in the state, he said.

“This decision to change AMC’s pay practices puts our teammates first. We know this will make us stronger in California by ensuring we continue to recruit and retain the top medical clinicians in the state, strengthens our push to be the destination employer for all in the air medical industry and allows us to continue to provide the highest level of care to all the California communities we serve,” Flanders said.

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©2020 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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