Articles Posted in FLSA

In wage and hour law, as with any area of the law, there are issues that arise with elevated frequency at certain moments in time. (For example, a few years ago the courts saw a flurry of employee-versus-independent-contractor misclassification cases involving exotic dancers.) More recently, an issue before multiple different courts involves employers taking automatic meal-break deductions, regardless of whether the workers got their full break (or any break at all) or not. When this happens, it may constitute a Fair Labor Standards Act violation for which you may be entitled to compensation. An experienced Atlanta wage-and-hour lawyer can tell you more about whether your situation represents a violation of the law.

One of the most recent incidents occurred to our north, where Ohio workers initiated a class action against their employer, a medical company that owns hospitals, rehab centers, and clinics. According to the workers, the employer had a practice of automatically deducting 1/2 hour from their hours to account for each worker’s meal break. The alleged problem was, however, that the realities of the workplace (especially during periods of understaffing) meant that workers often had to work through lunch or were able only to take abbreviated meal breaks. Even when those circumstances arose, the employer still took the automatic 30-minute deduction, according to the complaint.

On that basis, the workers alleged that the employer violated the FLSA by failing to pay overtime wages the workers earned. The class that the workers proposed was an expansive one; namely, “all current and former hourly, non-exempt direct care employees of defendant who had a meal break deduction applied to their hours worked in any workweek where they were paid for at least forty (40) hours of work.”

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An ongoing case in federal court in Macon represents a potentially important data point in an emerging area of Fair Labor Standards Act misclassification litigation: lawsuits between big agribusiness entities and the farmers with whom they work. These farmers are typically classified by the agribusiness companies as independent contractors, but now the farmers are suing, alleging that they actually are employees. As with any industry or field of business, if you think you’ve been illegally classified as an independent contractor, you should get in touch with an Atlanta employment misclassification lawyer right away.

The workers making up the class were a group of chicken farmers. The purported employer was a poultry processing company (the third largest in the country) that classified the farmers as independent contractors.

The farmers argued that the evidence they presented demonstrated a relationship where the poultry company retained an extremely high degree of control over the farmers, which is generally a hallmark of an employee-employer relationship, not an independent contractor-principal one. Although the company promised the farmers independence, it actually held the reigns over “virtually every aspect” of the farmers’ operations, according to the complaint. This allegedly included demanding specific “feed, medication, vaccinations”, and more, including barns.

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Employers celebrating the holidays with company-wide parties are increasing in numbers. While not at 2019 levels, research shows that, in 2022, more than half are having in-person events. With office holiday parties returning, so too are the legal risks that run concurrently with them. Whether you’re an employer or an employee, it is important to acknowledge that the company holiday party can violate the law in more ways than you might have considered. For employers, a skilled Atlanta employment lawyer can help you keep your party legally compliant. For employees harmed as a result of these kinds of violations, the right legal counsel can be invaluable in protecting your legal options related to those violations.

The Chicago-based firm of Challenger, Gray & Christmas conducts an annual survey of employers regarding holiday parties. The firm’s 2022 survey revealed a massive uptick in in-person events, rising from 27% in 2021 to 57% this year. While not at 2019’s high (75%,) the 2022 number approaches where employers were in 2018 (65%.)

Holidays carry a unique set of risks for employers and employees alike. Especially in recent years, employers and employees alike have become more aware of the risks of sexual harassment at company holiday parties, especially when those events also involve the availability of alcoholic beverages.

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Many workers probably know that they can pursue legal action if they incur retribution from their employer for speaking out against discrimination or harassment. However, Title VII isn’t the only law with a prohibition against retaliation. You may also be entitled to hold your employer accountable if they punished you for taking part or being “about to” participate in opposing illegal practices under the Family and Medical Leave Act or the Fair Labor Standards Act. If that’s happened to you, you should contact a knowledgeable Atlanta retaliation lawyer to discuss your situation.

While not a case from Georgia, a recent retaliation matter in the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals shows how broad the coverage of the FLSA’s anti-retaliation provision can be.

The events culminating in the decision started in early 2019. That was when M.M., a former employer at an oil and gas production corporation, filed a class action complaint under the FLSA. The case accused the employer of failing to pay overtime compensation that the workers had earned.

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Many workers’ work schedules vary from week to week, both in terms of schedules and the total number of hours worked. The law allows employers whose employees work fluctuating workweeks several options for compensating those workers. Other methods for paying fluctuating-workweek employees, however, run afoul of the Fair Labor Standards Act. A knowledgeable Atlanta wage and hour lawyer can help determine if your method is compliant with the law and, if not, what the next steps should be.

While not technically a fluctuating-workweek matter, a recent federal court case from Pennsylvania offers an example of an employer who dealt with an employee’s changing schedule in a way that was permissible under the law.

The employee, S.W., was a direct care worker working for a home care company. Before she started with the employer, she signed a “Rate Sheet” that said her pay would be $11 per hour. The sheet, however, also said that her hourly wage could change if her hours went up or down.

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For many workers in this so-called “gig” economy, one of the biggest issues they (and the entity that retains their services) must confront is whether that worker is an independent contractor (who is not covered by many of the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act) or an employee (who, unless exempt, generally is covered by the law.) Often, these classifications are inappropriate and the worker in question, based on the nature of his/her job, qualifies as an employee, not an independent contractor. When that happens, you may have a claim for compensation wrongfully denied to you, meaning you should get in touch with a knowledgeable Atlanta worker misclassification lawyer right away to discuss your circumstances.

A new proposed rule that the U.S. Department of Labor announced earlier this month could make it harder for employers to classify workers as independent contractors. The new rule seeks to limit independent contractor status only to those workers who, “as a matter of economic reality, are not economically dependent on their employer for work and are in business for themselves,” according to the Labor Department.

The existing rule has five “economic realities” to guide the classification of workers as independent contractors versus employees. The rule split those five into two “core factors,” which were the nature and degree of the hiring entity’s control over the work and the worker’s “opportunity for profit or loss,”  and three lesser factors, which were the degree of skill the work required, the extent to which the hiring entity-worker relationship was or was not a permanent one, and whether the worker’s work was part of an integrated unit of production.

One would hope that business owners and managers would always conduct themselves with professionalism and circumspection when dealing with inquiries from their employees. Reality tells us something different. Too many employers, when approached by an employee about issues like the employer’s pay practices, eschew restraint in favor of vindictive, vengeful retaliation. When that happens to you in the course of your job, do not be discouraged, as what your employer has done may entitle you to, with the help of a knowledgeable Atlanta workplace retaliation lawyer, recover compensation for a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

One such incident occurred here in North Georgia. Allegations against a DeKalb County brewery were numerous, including misclassification of employees as independent contractors.

However, one alleged transgression drew particular attention from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. The allegation involved the treatment of two brewery employees who emailed the brewery’s owner to inquire about their wages and the employer’s rules about tip sharing.

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In many fields of employment, an employer may seek to obtain its employees’ signatures or agreements in which those workers sign away their right to sue in court for certain claims, such as unpaid overtime or minimum wage disputes. In place of a trial in court is a hearing before an arbitrator or arbitration panel. Employers insist on these agreements because, often, proceeding in arbitration as opposed to litigation works to the employer’s benefit and to the employee’s detriment. That’s why you should proceed with substantial care before such a waiver of your rights and, if you have questions or concerns, get in touch with a knowledgeable Atlanta minimum wage lawyer.

Not only can an agreement place you in the position of contesting your underlying claims before an arbitrator, but even the arguments you raise about the enforceability of the arbitration agreement itself may also have to be contested in that same arbitration setting.

That was the bad news for some workers who sued in federal court in New York alleging they were illegally underpaid. The plaintiffs were workers at various locations of a center that spread the teachings of Kabbalah. These were workers who, when they joined the center, signed vows of poverty. They received “cash allowances or monthly stipends,” housing, food, and clothing. They received no other compensation for their work.

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According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, agribusiness represents the state’s leading industry, checking in with $74 billion in annual economic impact. That means that a lot of workers in this state are exempt from the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Fair Labor and Standards Act, based on that law’s agriculture exception. One group to whom that exception does not apply, however, are workers who may work at agribusiness sites but who are not employed in agricultural work. If you’ve been denied overtime or other appropriate compensation due to a misapplication of the FLSA’s agriculture exception, then you should retain an experienced Atlanta unpaid overtime lawyer to get started pursuing what you’re owed.

While not from here in Georgia, a recent federal unpaid overtime case is a good example of what we mean. The plaintiff in the lawsuit, José, worked for a Texas-based construction firm that built structures for commercial, industrial, and agricultural clients. José’s job called for him to build “livestock confinement facilities.”

José allegedly worked more than 40 hours per week “regularly,” but his employer paid him no overtime compensation, so he sued under the FLSA.

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There are lots of reasons an employer might want to pay a worker or former employee in an unconventional way. It might be a marketing promotion, it might be an attempt to embrace cutting-edge currencies, or it might be a passive-aggressive expression of hostility. Whatever the reason, workers and employers alike should recognize that when work is compensated in anything other than cash, electronic payment (like a direct deposit,) or a negotiable instrument (like a check,) that compensation method has the potential to run afoul of the Fair Labor Standards Act. A knowledgeable Atlanta wage and hour lawyer can help you, as a worker, determine if the compensation you received complies with the law or not.

Some months ago, this blog covered a disgruntled Georgia employer who caught the attention of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for the non-traditional way it paid a fired worker’s final wages. The $915 payment arrived in the worker’s driveway, in the form of a wheelbarrow full of 572 pounds of “oil-soaked” pennies. That, plus a final pay stub with an expletive written on it, amounted to illegal retaliation, according to the EEOC.

More recently, news outlets focused on an unusual work arrangement at a fast food establishment in North Carolina. A Chick Fil A restaurant there posted to its Facebook page that it sought “volunteers” to work at its new “Drive Thru Express.” The so-called volunteers would receive “5 free entrees” for each one-hour shift they worked.

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