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.
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.
The plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the court to determine, as a matter of law, that she was the defendants’ employee. Two of the defendants, each of whom owned 50% of the third defendant (a corporation), sought summary judgment on the issue of whether they were employees of the corporate defendant.
Holding of the Case
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, granted the plaintiff’s motion and denied the individual defendants’ motion. In deciding whether the plaintiff was an employee or an independent contractor, the federal district court applied an economic-reality test, questioning whether the plaintiff was so dependent upon the defendants as to come inside the protection of FLSA or whether she was sufficiently independent to be outside the ambit of the relevant statute. Simply put, did the plaintiff work for the defendant or was she in business for herself?
One of the most factors to be considered in answering this question was the nature and degree of control that the defendants had over how the plaintiff performed her work. In the court’s opinion, the defendants exercised significant control over the plaintiff’s work, thus requiring a holding that she was an employee, not an independent contractor. The defendants set the minimum prices that customers paid for the work performed by the plaintiff, had ultimate control over who was allowed to enter the premises, and set the hours of operation for the venue. The court also noted that the defendants had others who worked for them who were acknowledged as employees under FLSA, including wait staff and security guards with whom the plaintiff was expected to share part of the monies that customers paid directly to her during her shift.
Schedule a Consultation with an Atlanta Attorney
Making a living can be hard enough when one’s employer complies with the law, but working for a company that refuses to pay fair wages or otherwise acts unlawfully can be especially difficult. If you think you have a claim against an Atlanta employer for violation of federal hour and wages laws, experienced FLSA attorney John L. Mays at Parks, Chesin & Walbert can help. For an appointment, call 877-986-5529 today. The consultation is free, and there is no obligation if you decide that our firm is not the right fit for your legal needs.
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