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Oakland Judge Approves $78M Overtime Settlement Between Air Medical Company, Employees

OAKLAND (CBS SF/AP) — A judge approved a $78 million-settlement between a medical helicopter company and its California flight crew employees over unpaid overtime and missed breaks.

The decision last week by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Winifred Y. Smith came three months after Air Methods Corporation of Colorado agreed to settle the class-action lawsuit. Smith gave preliminary approval in July.

The settlement states that Air Methods plans to pay daily overtime to its California medical flight crews starting from June 28 — resulting in an estimated 20% or more increase to their salaries, the Mercury News reported in July.

One of Air Methods helicopters (Facebook)

Air Methods is one of the nation's largest air medical transport companies and operates helicopter bases in multiple states. Teams of nurses and paramedics are dispatched in its aircraft, often to remote areas.

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

Air Methods didn't immediately respond Tuesday to an email seeking comment. In a July statement the company said the 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," the statement said.

It's estimated each plaintiff will receive more than $100,000 each, on average, the newspaper reported.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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