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In a ruling that could cost the city of Philadelphia more than $10 million, a divided federal appeals court has ruled that a group of more than 300 paramedics are entitled to overtime pay because they don’t meet the test for an exemption under federal law that denies overtime pay to firefighters.

The 2-1 decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Lawrence v. City of Philadelphia sharpens a split in the courts on the issue of how broadly the courts should read Section 203(y) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which established higher overtime thresholds for “fire-protection employees.” Passed by Congress in 1999 as an amendment to the FLSA, Section 203(y) was intended to clear up confusion over which workers were subject to a higher overtime threshold. But in the short-term, the law has spawned a mini-wave of litigation by paramedics and dispatchers who claim they should not be treated the same as full-time firefighters.

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