On October 28 a three-member majority of the National Labor Relations Board in Murphy Oil revisited and reaffirmed its position that employers violate the National Labor Relations Act (the “Act”) by requiring employees covered by the Act (virtually allnonsupervisory and non-managerial employees of most private sector employees, whether unionized or not) to waive, as a condition of their employment, participation in class or collective actions.
By Michael Kun
Much has already been written about last week’s California Supreme Court decision in Duran v. U.S. Bank Nat’l Ass’n, a greatly anticipated ruling that will have a substantial impact upon wage-hour class actions in California for years to come. Much more will be written about the decision as attorneys digest it, as parties rely on it in litigation, and as the courts attempt to apply it.
In a lengthy and unanimous opinion, the California Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeal’s decision to reverse a $15 million trial award in favor of a class of employees … Continue Reading
By: Kara M. Maciel
The following is a selection from the Firm’s October Take 5 Views You Can Use which discusses recent developments in wage hour law.
- IRS Will Begin Taxing a Restaurant’s Automatic Gratuities as Service Charges
Many restaurants include automatic gratuities on the checks of guests with large parties to ensure that servers get fair tips. This method allows the restaurant to calculate an amount into the total bill, but it takes away a customer’s discretion in choosing whether and/or how much to tip the server. As a result of this removal of a customer’s voluntary act, the … Continue Reading
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently took a significant step toward bringing uniformity to the law of class and collective action waivers under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
In Sutherland v. Ernst & Young LLP, the court held that employees can be contractually compelled to arbitrate their claims on an individual basis, and thereby waive their right to participate in a FLSA collective action. The decision is another in a series of cases that have required employees to arbitrate employment-related claims on an individual basis when they have clearly agreed to do … Continue Reading
By Michael Kun
“Hybrid” wage-hour class actions are by no means a new concept.
In a “hybrid” class action, the named plaintiff files suit seeking to represent classes under both the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and state wage-hour laws. As the potential recovery and limitations periods for these claims are often very different, so, too, are the mechanisms used for each.
In FLSA claims, where classes can be “conditionally certified” if a plaintiff satisfies a relatively low burden of establishing that class members are “similarly situated” – a phrase nowhere defined in the statute – only those persons … Continue Reading
In Genesis Healthcare Corp. v. Symczyk, the Unites States Supreme Court held that a collective action under the FLSA was properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction after the named plaintiff ignored the employer’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 68 offer of judgment. The Court concluded that the plaintiff had no personal interest in representing putative, unnamed claimants, nor did she have any other continuing interest that would preserve her suit from mootness.
The plaintiff’s collective action was originally filed in District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and the employer made an offer of judgment that … Continue Reading
By Douglas Weiner
Last month, we released our Wage and Hour Division Investigation Checklist for employers and have received terrific feedback with additional questions. Following up on your questions, we will be regularly posting FAQs as a regular feature of our Wage & Hour Defense Blog.
In this post, we address an increasingly common issue that many employers are facing in light of aggressive government enforcement at the state and federal level from the Department of Labor.
QUESTION: If a DOL team of Wage Hour Investigators arrive unannounced demanding the immediate production of payroll and tax records and access to … Continue Reading
By Michael Kun
As we have written before in this space, the latest wave of class actions in California is one alleging that employers have not complied with obscure requirements requiring the provision of “suitable seating” to employees – and that employees are entitled to significant penalties as a result.
The “suitable seating” provisions are buried so deep in Wage Orders that most plaintiffs’ attorneys were not even aware of them until recently. Importantly, they do not require all employers to provide seats to all employees. Instead, they provide that employers shall provide “suitable seats when the nature … Continue Reading
By Michael Kun
Employers with operations in California have become aware in recent years of an obscure provision in California Wage Orders that requires “suitable seating” for some employees. Not surprisingly, many became aware of this provision through the great many class action lawsuits filed by plaintiffs’ counsel who also just discovered the provision. The law on this issue is scant. However, at least two pending cases should clarify whether and when employers must provide seats – a case against Bank of America that is currently before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, and a case against K-Mart that is … Continue Reading
By Frederick Dawkins and Douglas Weiner
Earlier this month, at the ABA Labor and Employment Law Conference, Solicitor of Labor M. Patricia Smith reaffirmed that investigating independent contractors as misclassified remains a top priority of the U.S. Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) enforcement initiatives. The DOL will continue to work with other federal and state agencies, including the IRS, to share information and jointly investigate claims of worker misclassification. The joint enforcement effort is certainly driven by, among other things, an interest in collecting unpaid tax revenue, and could result in significant liability to employers.
In addition to potential liability resulting … Continue Reading
By Michael Kun
Yesterday, only weeks after its long-awaited Brinker v. Superior Court decision, the California Supreme Court issued another important ruling on California meal and rest period laws.
In Kirby v. Immoos Fire Protection, Inc., the Supreme Court ruled that neither party may recover attorney’s fees on claims involving meal and rest periods. The Court analyzed the legislative history of the meal and rest period provisions and concluded, “We believe the most plausible inference to be drawn from history is that the Legislature intended [meal and rest period] claims to be governed by the default American rule … Continue Reading
By: Michael Kun
This morning, the California Supreme Court has just issued its long-awaited decision in the Brinker case regarding meal and period requirements. It is largely, but not entirely, a victory for employers. A copy of the decision is here.
A few highlights of the decision:
On rest periods, the Court confirmed the certification of a rest period class because Brinker’s written policy arguably did not comply with the law as to the second rest period in a day. In so doing, it clarified when employees are entitled to rest periods:
· Employees are entitled to 10 … Continue Reading
By Douglas Weiner and Meg Thering
In one of the many “wrinkles” in Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) litigation, settlements of wage and hour disputes between an employer and its employees are only enforceable if supervised by the U.S. Department of Labor or approved by a court. Courts will approve settlements if they are “fair”; however, as demonstrated in a recent decision arising out of New Jersey – Brumley v. Camin Cargo Control – courts may need to be reminded that employers also have rights and legitimate interests. The Brumley Court took what was a bargained-for exchange between both parties and turned … Continue Reading
Wage and hour investigations and class action lawsuits continue to be a potentially serious problem for many employers, resulting in an abundance of new cases filed and many large settlements procured. In addition, in September 2011, under the guidance of the Obama Administration, the Department of Labor and IRS announced an effort to coordinate with each other to address misclassification of employees as independent contractors, which is resulting in additional investigations, fines, and/or legal liability levied on an employer.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. CDT – Program and … Continue Reading
By Amy Traub and Desiree Busching
Like the fashions in the magazines on which they work and the blockbuster movies for which they assist in production, unpaid interns are becoming one of the newest, hottest trends— the new “it” in class action litigation. As we previously advised, there has been an increased focus on unpaid interns in the legal arena, as evidenced by complaints filed by former unpaid interns in September 2011 against Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc. and in February 2012 against Hearst Corporation. In those lawsuits, unpaid interns working on the hit movie “Black Swan” and at Harper’s Bazaar magazine, respectively, alleged … Continue Reading
Wage Hour laws and regulations are complex, non-intuitive, and constantly changing. Mistakes in wage and salary administration have led to class actions resulting in six and seven figure recoveries against the most sophisticated employers – banks and major industrial giants as well as smaller employers without in-house legal and high level Human Resources officials. Peter M. Panken, Lauri Rasnick and Douglas Weiner in our New York Office have recently authored an article in conjunction with a major national Continuing Legal Education program in Washington entitled: “ An Overview of Wage Hour Laws and Litigation: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Back Wage … Continue Reading
The plague of lawsuits for unpaid overtime compensation by employees who claim that they were misclassified by their current or former employer as “exempt” from overtime under the “administrative” exemption of the Fair Labor Standards Act shows no signs of receding. These lawsuits continue to present challenges to employers, not just in terms of the burdens and costs of defending the cases, but in the uncertainty of the potential financial exposure.
Plaintiffs seeking to bring state law wage-hour class actions against employers in the trucking industry have run into a significant road block in California. For the second time in a year, a United States District Court has held that claims based on California’s meal and rest period laws are preempted by federal law.
In Esquivel et al. v. Performance Food Group Inc., the plaintiffs claimed the defendant scheduled their delivery routes such that the plaintiffs were unable to take duty-free meal periods. The defendant argued that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (“FAAA”) … Continue Reading
By David Garland and Douglas Weiner
In February 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit gave a resounding victory to employers in the pharmaceutical industry by finding that pharmaceutical sales representatives are covered by the outside sales exemption of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham, No. 10-15257 (9th Cir. Feb. 14, 2011). Plaintiffs, and the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) in an amicus brief, had argued the exemption did not apply because sales reps are prohibited from making the final sale. Prescription medicine in the heavily regulated pharmaceutical industry can only be sold to the … Continue Reading
For several years, employers’ counsel have moved to block the combining of state wage and overtime claims with federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) claims, arguing that Rule 23 opt-out class actions were inherently inconsistent with FLSA collective opt-in actions. For support, they cited to the decision of the Third Circuit in De Asencio vs. Tyson Foods, Inc., 342 F. 3d 301 (3rd Cir. 2003) reversing a district court’s exercise of supplemental jurisdiction because of the inordinate size of the state-law class, the different terms of proof required by the implied contract state-law claims, and … Continue Reading
By Amy Traub and Christina Fletcher
Once a settlement has been reached in an FLSA collective action, the defendant-employer typically wants that settlement to go into effect and end the case as soon as possible, so that the company can get past the myriad of distractions brought by the suit. However, as litigants increasingly are finding, the parties’ agreement to settle an FLSA collective action is nowhere near the end of the road, or the end of the case. There is a “judicial prohibition” against the unsupervised waiver or settlement of claims brought under the FLSA. Settlements must be “supervised” by the Department … Continue Reading
By Betsy Johnson and Evan J. Spelfogel
Employment litigation is growing at a rate far greater than litigation in general. Twenty-five times more employment discrimination cases were filed last year than in 1970, an increase almost 100 percent greater than all other types of civil litigation combined. Case backlogs at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and in state and federal courts and administrative agencies nationwide number in the hundreds of thousands. Class and collective wage and overtime cases are inundating the courts. These types of cases now even outnumber discrimination cases. Most of the employment-related cases pending in … Continue Reading
In recent years, some plaintiffs’ counsel bringing wage-hour claims have have made the strategic decision to bring "hybrid" class actions; that is, actions alleging both federal and state wage-hour claims. These cases can cause logistical nightmares for the courts, and great benefits for plaintiffs, for two primary reasons: (1) the standard for certification of a class is differerent for federal and state claims, and (2) classes in federal claims are "opt in" classes while those for state claims are "opt out" classes. Indeed, in bringing "hybrid" claims, plaintiffs may seek to take advantage of the lower threshold for achieving … Continue Reading
By Douglas Weiner
A faculty comprised of Defense counsel and Plaintiffs’ counsel presented strategic insights to those who gathered at the American Conference Institute’s 9th National Forum on Wage Hour Claims and Class Actions. I had the pleasure of moderating a judicial panel comprised of six federal jurists who offered practitioners key insights from their experience in presiding over cases alleging violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. In addition to the substantive issues of class and collective action litigation, I took the opportunity to ask the judges what tips they had for wage-hour litigators to make effective presentations in their courtrooms. After … Continue Reading