Tri-State CareFlight Overtime Litigation: State and federal laws exist to ensure that most employees receive time and one-half their regular rate of pay if they are required to work more than forty hours per week. Unfortunately, many employers fail to pay the required overtime to their employees. The result is that too many employees are required to work very hard, but are denied all of the pay to which they are legally entitled.
Moody & Warner has been active at pursuing overtime claims on behalf of employees who have been wrongfully denied overtime pay. Many overtime claims are for a few thousand dollars each, making them uneconomic to pursue on an individual basis. Moody & Warner frequently pursues employers in class action or collective litigation, where a few employees may represent a class of tens, hundreds or even thousands of employees.
Moody & Warner is currently pursuing overtime claims on behalf of New Mexico employees of Tri-State CareFlight, LLC, a company that operated an air ambulance service in New Mexico until it sold its operations to Air Methods in early 2016. The case was originally brought by David and Nicole Payne, two flight crew employees of Tri-State, in 2014 for unpaid overtime. Under New Mexico law unpaid overtime is multiplied by three, effectively tripling the amount of overtime that originally went unpaid. We filed the case as a class action on behalf of all Tri-State flight crew members employed in New Mexico from June 16, 2009 to the present. Before the court ruled on whether the case can be pursued as a class action, Tri-State settled with the Paynes. This is a common strategy employed by companies in this situation. They pay off the few employees who are brave enough to sue them in the hopes that the case will then go away and they will not have to pay all the other employees who were shorted on overtime.
The only way to prevent a company from "picking off" the class representatives and perhaps thereby causing the case to fail as a class action is for more current or former employees to join the case both individually (to obtain the legally entitled overtime pay) and as class representatives. Fortunately, five additional former Tri-State employees stepped up and agreed to join the case as class representatives in early 2016. Keith Bastian, Jaqueline Fernandez-Quezada, Cason N. Heard, Gregory Oldham and Sherry K. Welch intervened in the case and with our assistance continued to pursue the case as a class action on behalf of all persons employed by Tri-State in New Mexico as flight crew members from mid-2009 through early 2016.
Once again Tri-State decided to "pick off" the former employees by offering them 100% of the unpaid overtime and additional damages we calculated they were due. Tri-State has agreed to pay the five plaintiffs amounts ranging from over $13,000 to a high of over $64,000 depending on the amount of overtime each was due. You can see the final judgment listing the amounts Tri-State will be paying to the five current plaintiffs by clicking here. While the company adamantly denies liability, we believe that Tri-State's agreement to pay all sums that we believe are owed to these former employees is a recognition that overtime pay is owed and due to Tri-State employees who worked hard and provided their time and effort to the benefit of the company.
We have recently asked the court for permission for seventeen former Tri-State employees to intervene in the case to continue the litigation on behalf of themselves and all other former New Mexico flight crew employees employed at any time since June 16, 2009. You can review the proposed Third Amended Complaint on behalf of these seventeen by clicking here.
We anticipate asking the court to certify the case as a class action as soon as possible, but Tri-State may well decide to continue with its strategy of settling only with the former employees that sue it, hoping to avoid having to pay all of the other former employees who have not joined in the lawsuit, but who we believe are legally entitled to the fair pay that New Mexico law provides to employees.
To avoid that result it is important that as many former Tri-State flight crew members who were employed in New Mexico consider whether to learn more about their potential legal rights under New Mexico Law and consider whether participation in this lawsuit may be of interest. That will show Tri-State that there is no way out except to pay all former employees what they are owed under the law. If you want to know more about the case or want to consider whether you would like, as a matter of your own choice, to join, please contact Chelsea Buldain at email@example.com or 505.944.0033.