Wage and Hour Defense Blog

Wage and Hour Defense Blog

Category Archives: FLSA Litigation

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Controls Imposed by Franchise Agreements May Support Class Action Claims That Franchisees Are Actually Employees

Claims that employees have been misclassified as independent contractors remain a focus for private plaintiffs and government agencies. Contracts that exert control over the business of another company may be a particularly fertile source of misclassification claims by plaintiffs seeking unpaid wages.

Two recent suits arising from franchise agreements with Jani-King, described by the Third Circuit as “the world’s largest commercial cleaning franchisor,” demonstrate the potential liability that can arise under these circumstances.

Wage Hour Division Sues Based on Misclassification of Franchisees

Last week, the Department of Labor filed suit claiming that franchisees of Jani-King of Oklahoma Inc. are actually … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Approves Use of Statistical Evidence in Affirming $5.8 Million Employee Victory in Class Action Against Tyson Foods

US Supreme CourtOn March 22, 2016, the United States Supreme Court issued its much anticipated decision in Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo, a donning and doffing case in which a class of employees had been awarded $2.9 million following a 2011 jury trial that relied on statistical evidence. (A subsequent liquidated damages award brought the total to $5.8 million.)

In a 6-2 opinion, the Supreme Court affirmed that award.  While the Supreme Court’s decision may not have been the outcome many were expecting, the Court did not issue a broad ruling regarding the use of statistical evidence in class actions, and the … Continue Reading

Wage and Hour Division Offers Guidance on Joint Employment – Employment Law This Week

The top story on Employment Law This Week – Epstein Becker Green’s new video program – is the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division’s new interpretation of joint employment.

The federal Wage and Hour Division issued an Administrator’s Interpretation with new guidelines for joint employers under the FLSA and Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. The Division makes it clear that it believes employers are regularly part of joint employment relationships with their vendors and business partners. If an employee files a claim or lawsuit and a joint-employment relationship is found, both employers can be found liable for … Continue Reading

The Ninth Circuit Declines to Adopt Bright-Line Rule for Managers Claiming FLSA Retaliation

Conference room behind blindsIn a split decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has declined to adopt a bright-line rule to assess whether a managerial employee has filed a complaint for the purposes of § 215(a)(3) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), the statute’s anti-retaliation provision.  The decision, Rosenfield v. GlobalTranz Enterprises, appears to highlight a disagreement among the Circuits.

At least four Circuit Courts – the First, Fifth, Sixth and Tenth – have adopted a manager-specific legal standard:  in order to engage in protected activity under § 215(a)(3), the employee must step outside his or her role of representing the … Continue Reading

What’s Behind the 2015 Increase in FLSA Lawsuits?

As we mentioned earlier this week, I was recently interviewed on our firm’s new video program, Employment Law This Week.  The show has now released “bonus footage” from that episode – see below.

I elaborate on some of the reasons behind this year’s sharp increase in federal wage-and-hour suits: worker-friendly rules, increased publicity around minimum wage and overtime issues, and the difficulties of applying an outdated law to today’s “gig” economy.

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The Third Circuit Adopts Predominant Benefit Test For Meal Periods, Leaving The Ninth Circuit As The Sole Holdout

PostThe Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently joined the chorus of Circuits adopting the pro-employer “predominant benefit test” when weighing the compensability of meal periods under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  As a result, the Ninth Circuit is the lone Circuit to apply a different standard, opting to follow the U.S. Department of Labor regulations providing that an “employee must be completely relieved from duty” in order for a meal period to be deemed bona fide and thus not compensable.

In Babcock v. Butler County, a putative class action lawsuit, employees at the Butler County prison alleged that … Continue Reading

FLSA Lawsuits Hit Record in 2015 – Employment Law This Week

The top story on Employment Law This Week – Epstein Becker Green’s new video program – is the record high for Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuits in 2015.

The number of federal wage-and-hour suits rose almost 8% this year. There are many reasons for the increase, including more worker-friendly rules and increased publicity around minimum wage and overtime issues. Some point to the difficulties of applying an outdated law to our modern day economy.

Jeff Ruzal, co-editor of this blog, is interviewed. Click below to view the episode.

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Beauty School Unpaid Wage Lawsuit Dismissed – Employment Law This Week

Featured in Employment Law This Week – Epstein Becker Green’s new video program: Beauty school students are not entitled to wages – that was the conclusion reached by federal judges in two different cases where the students challenged the practice of serving salon customers in a clinical setting.

In both cases, the Court held that the students had not proven that the educational benefit they received was outweighed by the unpaid work they did, and they therefore did not qualify for minimum wages and overtime. Unpaid internships are under a lot of scrutiny right now by the Department of Labor … Continue Reading

Second Circuit Holds FLSA Cases Cannot Be Settled Without Court Review

Wage and Hour Image 3

On August 7, 2015 the Second Circuit held that parties cannot enter into private settlements of Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA” or the “Act”) claims without  the approval of either the district court or the Department of Labor. Cheeks v. Freeport Pancake House, Inc., No. 14-299 (2nd Cir. 2015).

Although other circuits are split on the issue of whether pre-suit agreements to settle FLSA claims are enforceable, this is the first appellate decision to address the issue of whether judicial approval is required to terminate an FLSA lawsuit once it has been filed. See Lynn’s Food Stores, Inc. Continue Reading

David W. Garland to Moderate General Session at NRF’s 2014 HR Executive Summit

David W. Garland, Chair of Epstein Becker Green’s Labor and Employment Steering Committee and a member of the firm’s Board of Directors, will moderate “It’s In The Bag – Summary of Bag Check Litigation And Strategies For Minimizing Risk” at the National Retail Federation Human Resources Executive Summit at the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago, Illinois on October 15, 2014.

During this general session, retailers who are grappling with employee bag check litigation discuss what the industry can expect in litigation over employee compensation for time spent in bag checks to deter shrinkage and how retailers can minimize risk … Continue Reading

Filing a Wage and Hour Class Action is Protected by the National Labor Relations Act

by Steven M. Swirsky

An NLRB Administrative Law Judge issued a decision on April 29th in which he found that when a waiter in a restaurant in New York City, acting alone, instituted a class action lawsuit claiming violation of state or federal wage and hour laws, he was engaging in concerted activity on behalf of himself and co-workers, even if none of those co-workers are aware of the filing. While the decision does not mention whether the waiter was represented by a union, it seems pretty clear that there was no union in this case.  

Thus, the … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Declines to Review CEO’s Personal Liability

By Aaron Olsen

The United States Supreme Court declined to review the Second Circuit’s decision in Irizarry v. Catsimatidis, in which the Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s decision holding a CEO personally liable for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

By way of background, in July 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court’s decision that the CEO of a supermarket chain could be held personally liable for damages in Irizarry v. Catsimatidis.  The District Court had granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs in the class … Continue Reading

Avoiding Wage & Hour Liability in 2014

by Frank C. Morris, Jr.

Never has the potential peril for misclassification of individuals as independent contractors or employees as exempt been greater.

As each level of government tries to ferret out every possible dollar of potential tax revenue, a target of choice has become the alleged employer misclassification of individuals as independent contractors because of the reduced payroll taxes from independent contractors versus employees. Employer problems in this area are compounded by differences between the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”), U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”), and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission tests for independent contractors’ status.

The plaintiffs’ bar in recent … Continue Reading

Take 5 Views You Can Use: Wage and Hour Update

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.

  1. 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

District Court Rules That FLSA Cases Can Be Dismissed Based On Private Settlements, But Employers “Take Their Chances” On Enforcement.

By Michael D. Thompson

The prohibition against private settlements of FLSA claims was scrutinized again last week, when U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York held that parties could voluntarily dismiss an FLSA lawsuit without obtaining approval of the settlement agreement from the court.  Picerni v. Bilingual SEIT & Preschool Inc. 

Courts in FLSA cases have historically expressed the concern that individual waivers of FLSA rights would enable employers to use their superior bargaining power to extract individual waivers from their employees and “thwart the legislative policy [that the FLSA] was designed to effectuate.”  Brooklyn Continue Reading

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