Articles Posted in Wage & Hour Issues

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Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, most employees are entitled to a minimum wage, as well as certain overtime pay benefits. An employee who believes that his or her employer has acted wrongfully under the Act should consult an attorney about the possibility of filing an Atlanta wage and hour lawsuit.

In such a suit, the plaintiff has the burden of proof, meaning that he or she must be able to convince the court of his or her entitlement to relief by a preponderance of the evidence.

If he or she is unable to do so, it is likely that the case will be dismissed on summary judgment or at trial.

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Under state and federal law, there are several different types of claims that may arise in an Atlanta wage and hour violation case, including allegations of unpaid overtime, unpaid hours, minimum wage violations, and/or misclassifications. It is important to contact an attorney promptly if you believe that your employer has violated these or other employment-related laws.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs in a recent case were current or former employees of a certain manufacturer of portable storage buildings in Swainsboro, Georgia. They filed suit against the defendants, the manufacturer and its chief executive officer, in 2017, asserting a putative class action arising from what the plaintiffs characterized as an “illegal payday lending scheme within the manufacturing facility.” (Certification as a class action was later denied.)

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An Atlanta employment law case can be complicated by several factors – including the closing of a business or the legal status of a business’s owners. In a recent federal case, the business in question had been established through a rather complex series of agreements between various parties.

When the dust finally settled, a federal appeals court was called upon to determine whether one particular business owner could be held personally liable for the plaintiffs’ employment law claims, even though he was not the “bad actor” whose actions led to the lawsuit.

Facts of the Case

In a recent (unreported) federal appellate case, the plaintiffs were the former general manager and executive chef of an Atlanta restaurant that closed its doors after the plaintiffs and others had filed a number of claims against its owners, including the one defendant (a local celebrity/promoter who conducted business through a limited liability company) who remained in the case when it reached the court of appeals. The plaintiffs’ claims included allegations of breach of contract, failure to pay minimum wage and overtime wages, and fraud.

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There are several different issues that may arise in a Georgia wage and hour case. One of these issues is the question of whether a worker has been properly classified as an employee or as an independent contractor.

This is an important distinction because independent contractors are usually exempt from the requirements of federal law concerning matters like minimum wage and overtime.

Facts

The plaintiff in a recent case was a dancer who alleged that the defendant entertainment establishment owners had failed to pay her in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act, (FLSA), codified at U.S.C. § 201 et seq. According to the plaintiff, the defendants misclassified her as an “independent contractor” when she was, in fact, an employee who was entitled to receive minimum wage under FLSA.

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Under federal law, there are certain rules and regulations that govern the manner in which employees are paid. While some workers are exempt from these provisions, most are included.

Those whose employers have acted in violation of these or other laws concerning fair payment of wages may be able to recover money damages through an Atlanta wage and hour lawsuit. Because there is a limited time for taking legal action in such a situation, it is important to speak to a lawyer promptly if you think you have a potential wage and hour law case.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiffs were drivers and laborers employed by the defendant disposal services company. In a complaint filed in federal court, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants had either underpaid them or had failed to pay them for overtime hours in violation of § 207 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The plaintiffs further alleged that the defendant’s practices also affected other similarly situated workers employed. According to the plaintiffs’ complaint, although their pay stubs purported to reflect both regular and overtime rates, the plaintiffs contended that these rates were intentionally manipulated by the defendant to make it appear that the plaintiffs were receiving overtime pay when, in fact, they were not.

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In recent months, one of the emerging issues within employment law has centered on whether groups of workers are employees or independent contractors. Recent cases from Georgia have focused on whether exotic dancers are independent contractors or employees of the clubs where they dance, with the dancers achieving a favorable ruling in at least one instance. A group of freelance stagehands obtained a less successful outcome recently, with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals deciding that they were not employees of a referral service.

The referral agency, Crew One Productions, Inc., provided workers for live events in Atlanta and surrounding areas. The stagehands referred by Crew One worked a variety of events, ranging from concerts and sporting events to plays, trade shows, and graduations. Crew One would contract with the event planner for a number of stagehands and a specific hourly rate of pay. Crew One, which maintained a database of stagehands willing to consider taking assignments from the agency, would contact members of its database and obtain a number of available workers matching the number the event planner needed.

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‘Tis the season for holidays and, presumably, some time off with family and friends. Before finalizing any plans for an extended break, however, you might want to check the schedule at work. While spending days like Christmas and New Year’s opening gifts or lazing out to a string of bowl games seems like a no-brainer, for most workers in Georgia and Tennessee, there’s no law that says your employer can’t make you work those days.

For some jobs, like emergency services, restaurants, and retail, the notion that some people are stuck working on holidays seems pretty obvious. Less obvious to many people, though, is that neither Georgia nor Tennessee prohibits private employers—as opposed to state or municipal agencies—from requiring workers to come in on statutory holidays.

That means if the accounting firm or metal shop you work for decides December 25 should be business as usual, you’re expected to show up unless you’ve otherwise requested and been granted the time off. And there aren’t any guaranteed perks for being stuck at work while everyone else you know is home. If your employer is offering something like time and half for coming in on a holiday, that’s solely at its discretion. The only guaranteed extra pay is whatever you’d already be eligible for if the holiday sent you into overtime.

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In Johnny Cash’s One Piece at a Time, the singer tells the story of an assembly line worker who longs for one of the cars he spends his days building. Instead of pinching pennies, he devises a plan to acquire that car little by little. With an over-sized lunchbox and some help from friends, the worker smuggles home pieces every day over the course of a couple of decades. By retirement, he ends up with a Frankenstein of an automobile whose many components required the entire courthouse staff to register and results in a title weighing sixty pounds.

The dream of a “psycho-billy Cadillac” may be a little far-fetched, but internal theft by employees remains a real concern for companies, particularly retail stores and other business that sell or warehouse popular, pricey, or scarce consumer products. To combat the threat, many businesses subject employees and their belongings to screenings for stolen items at the end of their shifts. In environments like large department stores, where shifts are staggered and the searches might take only a minute or two, the delay may be inconvenient at times, but it would be tough to argue that it’s overly burdensome.

On the other hand, there are facilities doing these kinds of checks with dozens, if not hundreds, of workers whose shifts begin and end together. As anyone who’s been though a TSA line at an airport can understand, funneling that many people through checkpoints is not a quick endeavor. Instead of a two-minute delay, people at the back of the line might be waiting 20 minutes or more after their shift ends just to leave the building. Should they be compensated for that time?

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By looking at the uniforms and the trucks and scanners and just about everything else associated with any FedEx delivery driver, it’s more than reasonable that one would naturally assume they’re part of a massive payroll consisting of tens of thousands of employees for the Tennessee-based corporation. FedEx, however, would tell you that assumption is wrong. Instead, the company has a lengthy history of using independent contractors with dedicated routes to deliver its packages around the country.

Outfitted with FedEx logos, uniforms, and operating systems, it’s easy to see why a layperson might confuse the independent contractors for employees, and now courts around the country are beginning to agree. Fueled primarily by a string of class action labor lawsuits brought by FedEx drivers, state and federal courts have been thrust into deciding whether those drivers can proceed on claims reserved for employee-employer relationships. Last month, a pair of decisions from the Ninth Circuit appeals court found that, at least in California and Oregon, those drivers are actually employees of FedEx.

Spurred by claims for unpaid overtime and employment expenses as well as Family and Medical Leave Act violations, among other things, the first hurdle for the hundreds of drivers represented by the class action was to prove themselves eligible to recover on those bases. Doing so meant demonstrating that their arrangement with FedEx fell under the purview of employment. In a previous blog post, we discussed some of the basics of what distinguishes independent contractor status, but the Ninth Circuit went into great depth as it picked apart the many factors that demonstrated how little “independence” these drivers actually have.

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As the first American set to orbit Earth sat in a tiny capsule atop a giant rocket in February 1962, fellow astronaut Scott Carpenter wished him good luck with a succinct, “Godspeed, John Glenn.” Moments before, however, Carpenter was cutting the tension with a line that immediately became part of the Apollo Program’s lore and lexicon: “Remember, John, this was built by the low bidder.”

While very few endeavors will have the gravity of cobbling together millions of parts to build a missile capable of putting a human into space, there are plenty of reasons to wonder if we are getting what we paid for when we go as cheap as possible. There is, of course, the suspicion that lower prices may lead to cutting corners that will be reflected in the quality of materials and even the level of care in craftsmanship. But what if that low bid came at the expense of labor laws and undermined the economic health of a community?

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