Articles Posted in FLSA

Once you find yourself involved in a federal Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuit (whether as a plaintiff or a defendant,) you might imagine an elaborate litigation process with an intensely contested trial. Sometimes, that is what happens. Other times, different methods of resolution (that are frequently less involved and less expensive) may represent a more advantageous way to conclude a dispute. A skilled Atlanta wage-and-hour lawyer can be essential in helping you get a fair and just outcome – through litigation when necessary and through other means when that approach better serves your needs.

Many workers and/or employers may not fully understand how mediating an FLSA case works. A recent unpaid overtime case from the federal Southern District of Georgia court provides a useful background in walking through the process.

The Augusta-based employer allegedly violated the FLSA by improperly failing to pay one of its employees, P.J., overtime compensation and retaliating against him for complaining.

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The COVID-19 pandemic brought about many changes in the world of work, including a massive expansion of remote work. While remote work has been a boon to workers in many ways, it further blurs an already eroding line between when a worker is “on the clock” and off-the-clock time. Both employers and employees should be mindful that employees are entitled under the law to receive compensation for all the time spent working. If a non-exempt employee does off-the-clock work and doesn’t receive compensation, that may potentially represent a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Whether you are a non-exempt employee or an employer, a knowledgeable Atlanta wage and hour lawyer to discuss your situation and whether it complies with what the FLSA requires.

Remote work isn’t the only issue. The massive proliferation of high-speed internet connectivity and “smart” devices means workers can be “plugged in” to work at all hours and at any location.

Recently, a Duluth-based business researched the work employees do… and when they do it. The results were noteworthy. According to a Valdosta Today report, the study found that 40% of the nation’s workers were “working longer than their contracted hours.” Georgia is above the national average with 43% of Peach State workers reporting that they did work off the clock.

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Back in January, the U.S. Department of Labor published its annual report detailing the accomplishments of its Wage and Hour Division. The “WHD by the Numbers 2023” report revealed several key things. One was the cost of employers’ failure to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act. In 2023 alone, employers paid out more than $151 million to the WHD due to overtime and minimum wage violations. This should tell readers that FLSA non-compliance can be a substantial – and often unnecessary – drain on a business’s revenues. To ensure your business is fully compliant with all the FLSA’s demands, be sure you’ve consulted an experienced Atlanta wage and hour lawyer.

Overtime and minimum wage compensation are areas where misclassification often plays a major role. Overtime non-compliance can arise from misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor or misclassifying a non-exempt employee as an exempt employee. Misclassification-related minimum wage violations often are the result of erroneously classifying an employee as an independent contractor.

The report highlighted some other noteworthy information, including:

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Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor announced the publication of a new regulation governing the salary minimums applicable to certain exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act; namely, the executive, administrative, professional, outside sales, [or] computer employee” (a/k/a “EAP”) exemption and the highly compensated employee (HCE) exemption. According to DOL estimates, the new rule is a major departure from the previous rule, potentially moving as many as four million employees from exempt to non-exempt status. This change may significantly benefit those workers who become non-exempt. It also represents a critical decision-making juncture for employers. To ensure your business remains compliant with the FLSA in the face of the changing exempt-versus-non-exempt landscape, consult a knowledgeable Atlanta wage and hour lawyer.

The new rule is the result of a months-long rulemaking process. Last September, the DOL published a proposed version of the regulation. The proposed rule called for increasing the minimum salary level for qualifying as an exempt EAP employee to $1,059 per week (or $55,068 annually.) The department chose that figure because it represented “the 35th percentile of weekly earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region.” (By the way, that lowest region is here in the South.)

The proposed rule also called for raising the minimum salary for qualifying under the HCE exemption to $143,988 annually. That figure was equal to the “annualized weekly earnings of the 85th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally.”

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Unpaid overtime lawsuits pursued under the Fair Labor Standards Act are often complex matters. That’s true even if the parties avoid a trial and instead settle their dispute. Getting what you deserve from your settlement requires several crucial things, including negotiating an agreement that meets all your essential needs, executing an agreement that is clear, detailed, unambiguous, and complete, and taking all necessary actions to uphold your rights obtained in that agreement. As you work toward completing any of these steps, representation from an experienced Atlanta unpaid overtime lawyer can be vital to your success and protecting your interests.

A recent case from the federal courts is a relevant example. The lawsuit, which the workers filed in the Northern District of Georgia in 2019, alleged claims of unpaid overtime in violation of the FLSA. Although the workers originally sought more than $800,000 in damages, they and the employer eventually agreed to a settlement of $60,000. The agreement called for the employer to pay $10,000 upfront (within seven days) and then pay $1,000 each month for 50 months.

The contract also stated that if the employer didn’t pay, paid late, or otherwise defaulted on its obligations, the workers were required to contact the employer’s lawyer and give the employer seven days to cure the default. If the employer did not respond satisfactorily within seven days, then the workers were entitled to a $100,000 judgment against the employer and its owner.

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One month ago today, a new U.S. Department of Labor rule updating the standard for classifying workers as employees or independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act became effective. The new rule has received extensive coverage, with some commentators praising it as a needed expansion of workers’ rights, while others disparaged it as unfairly restricting opportunities for freelancers. Regardless of one’s perspective, the rule is now effective and employers and workers alike should familiarize themselves with its elements and its impact on their jobs or businesses. Whether you’re a worker or an employer, classification errors under the FLSA can potentially be highly damaging, which is why it’s vital to consult a knowledgeable Atlanta wage and hour lawyer about your situation.

As this blog discussed in October 2022, the new rule utilizes the “economic realities” test to determine if a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. The rule calls upon decision-makers to make assessments using six economic realities. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Georgia, Alabama, and Florida,) described those six in 2013 as:

  1. the degree to which the hiring entity has a right to control how the work is performed;

Whether you are an employer or a worker, employee-versus-nonemployee classification for purposes of employment law is a vital step, and the extreme importance of this classification process is something where you definitely should consult a knowledgeable Atlanta wage and hour lawyer. As a worker, misclassification may improperly deny you access to many statutory rights, including those guaranteed by the Fair Labor Status Act. As an employer, misclassification can inflict its own potential harm, including legal liability and an obligation to pay substantial court-ordered compensation to the worker(s) who sued your business.

Often, misclassification disputes involve deciding whether a worker is an employee or an independent (1099) contractor. As an FLSA case that recently came before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals illustrates, that’s not the only way that misclassification can occur, and any classification that improperly fails to designate a worker as an employee can have serious negative consequences.

The plaintiffs performed services at a public golf club in South Florida. These roles included course rangers, cart attendants, driving range attendants, and bag drop attendants. The county specifically listed the positions as “volunteer” roles. They received no wages but were allowed to accept tips. As a perk, volunteers performing these tasks were entitled to “reduced fees to play and practice golf.” Specifically, volunteers who worked at least one seven-hour shift each week were entitled to “unlimited” rounds of golf at a steep discount ($5 per round instead of the standard $96 per round.)

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A recent minimum wage case from Massachusetts is a reminder that just because an employee is not actively engaged in conducting the employer’s business — or maybe even is asleep — that doesn’t mean those hours aren’t compensable time. Hours spent on-call or waiting to work may or may not be compensable time under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The analysis depends on the totality of the circumstances and, as the courts have put it, were the employees “engaged to wait” or waiting to be engaged? Whether or not you’re an employer or an employee, understanding what time is compensable (and what isn’t) is crucial. An experienced Atlanta wage and hour lawyer can help you make those assessments and take the appropriate next steps.

The case from the Massachusetts federal court involved long-haul truck drivers. Federal regulations demand that truck drivers spend 10 hours of every 24 off duty, but other regulations say that employers when determining compensation, can deduct a maximum of eight hours of every 24 as a sleeping period. The drivers’ minimum wage lawsuit contended that they should be entitled to compensation for 16 hours, not 14.

The court sided with the employees. Given that the drivers spent the hours in dispute in a moving semi-truck (a confined space “that is ill-equipped for many activities,” “containing only some basic living essentials,” and that drivers cannot leave until the truck stops moving,) the court concluded that the time was not truly the drivers’ own but instead spent predominantly for the benefit of the employer, making it compensable.

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Domestic workers (like nannies and housekeepers) are a diverse group. Even fictional depictions range from Julie Andrews’ Mary Poppins to Robin Williams’ Mrs. Doubtfire. In real life, these workers often put in long hours, working more than 40 hours a week. Those facts may mean that a nanny or housekeeper may be entitled to substantial overtime compensation if they qualify as a non-exempt employee. If you have questions about the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime requirement or the domestic service exemption, consult an experienced Atlanta wage and hour lawyer.

A South Florida nanny’s recent unpaid overtime case clarified the breadth/narrowness of the domestic service exemption in federal cases in Georgia and two surrounding states.

The worker began as a full-time nanny and housekeeper for two South Florida parents in 2019. The nanny worked overnight shifts for five consecutive nights, totaling 79 hours per week. The parents paid the nanny a flat rate of between $800 and $880 weekly.

Food delivery drivers frequently can be the victims of Fair Labor Standards Act violations. That can include improperly underpaying drivers who use their personal vehicles for deliveries (by paying them only the minimum wage and then not properly paying them for the vehicle expenses they incur,) or illegally underpaying them as a result of misclassification as exempt employees when they really were non-exempt. Whether you’re a driver who believes your employer denied you the pay that you were owed under the law, or you’re an employer seeking to ensure that your pay practices are compliant with relevant laws, if you have questions about the FLSA, you should seek out knowledgeable answers from an experienced Atlanta age and hour lawyer.

One of those underpaid workers was A.N., a North Georgia pizza delivery driver, who filed to arbitrate a claim that the employer had illegally underpaid him in violation of the FLSA in 2019. The next year, an arbitrator sided with the driver and concluded that he had suffered $5,198 in actual damages. Coupled with $5,198 in liquidated damages and $153,867 in attorneys’ fees and costs, the total award was $164,264. The federal court for the Northern District of Georgia affirmed the award.

The employer, however, refused to pay. That forced the driver to bring a collection suit in federal court in Missouri, which the employer contested. The driver ultimately succeeded in collecting the judgment but spent an additional $53,934 to do so. The driver, in pursuit of the collection of those expenses, returned to the Northern District court on a motion for fees and costs.

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