Farm Workers in Southwest Georgia Land $100K Federal Court Settlement in Unpaid Overtime Dispute

When you sue because you were denied overtime pay you rightfully earned, there are several critical decisions you’ll need to make, including those related to settling the case. These include answering questions like: Do I settle now or hold out? and Is this offer amount a fair sum? It also involves determining whether the proposed settlement agreement is genuinely fair and properly protects your interests. When it comes to making these essential decisions, don’t go it alone, but instead rely on the knowledgeable advice of an experienced Atlanta unpaid overtime lawyer.

The settlement of a recent Fair Labor Standards Act case from rural southwest Georgia demonstrates how essential it is to ensure, not only that you have the right settlement amount, but also the right settlement agreement.

The plaintiffs were a group of several dozen workers who processed animals at a Georgia slaughterhouse. The workers were hourly employees who allegedly, on several occasions, worked more than 40 hours in a week but did not receive the overtime pay they should have.

According to the workers, the pay problem arose when they were forced to work a schedule different from the one they were “supposed” to work. The workers’ supposed schedule called for them to work four days per week, from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm, with a one-hour break period for lunch. However,  the workers alleged they actually were forced to continue working each day until all of the animals had been processed. According to the workers, this frequently meant working past 6:00 pm, but they did not get overtime pay.

As a result of this underpayment, the workers brought a FLSA class action in federal court. The employer asked the court to throw out the case on summary judgment. That would require the judge to find that, no matter what evidence the workers presented, the workers could not possibly prevail on the law. It would also mean that the workers’ case would be tossed before ever making it to trial.

If you are open to considering a settlement as the resolution to your overtime or other FLSA case, there are a few key things you should keep in mind, one of which relates to summary judgment. Making the arguments necessary to defeat your employer’s motion for summary judgment is critically important, not just because (as noted above) losing this motion means your case ends before even getting to trial, but also because the settlement offers your employer makes will likely be much larger and more reasonable after you’ve defeated your employer’s motion for summary judgment than before.

In the slaughterhouse workers’ case, they reached a settlement in which the employer paid $100,000, but that settlement did not come until after the workers defeated the employer’s motion for summary judgment.

Parsing all the ‘Fine Print’ in Your Settlement Agreement

Also, it is vitally important that you understand exactly what you are (or are not) agreeing to, especially if you have additional claims against your employer beyond just the overtime issue. An overly broad settlement agreement could have language that harms (or destroys) your other, non-FLSA claims, all in exchange for what you thought was a settlement only of the FLSA claim.

In this slaughterhouse case, the judge actually rejected a proposed settlement because he believed that the original agreement could be read to mean that the employees were giving up all their claims, even those independent of the overtime issue or any type of FLSA-related matter, which would have been unfair under the circumstances.

One of the key things you can take from this settlement is that, whether you are open to a settlement of your employment law case or you plan to take the case all the way to a judgment, success includes having the right legal team to give you the best advice at every step along the way. Count on the skilled Atlanta unpaid overtime attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert to be that kind of advocate, and provide that sort of advice, on your behalf. Our firm has a long track record of helping workers just like you in overtime cases. Contact us through this website or at 404-873-8048 to schedule a consultation regarding your situation.

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