Georgia Court Dismisses State Law Wage and Hour Claim

A Georgia state court recently dismissed a wage and hour lawsuit on the grounds that the injured parties were unable to state a claim under the Georgia Minimum Wage Law (GMWL).

In Anderson v. Southern Home Care Services, Inc., the injured parties sought to form a class action lawsuit representing all individuals employed in Georgia by the defendant from May 2004 to the present, who provide services to defendant’s clients at their residences, but who were not paid for the time spent traveling between job sites in a given day.  The defendant filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, claiming that the lawsuit was barred by Georgia’s three-year statute of limitations.

First, the court looked at the statute of limitations issue, specifically whether two similar types of litigation applied to this case.  In 2007, another group of care workers brought a lawsuit to recover unpaid wages in Geddis v. Southern Home Care, Inc.  In November of that year, the parties entered into an agreement stating that no statute of limitations on any claim under state or federal wage law would run against members of the class.  The parties eventually reached a settlement in 2011 and the case was dismissed.  Later in 2011, two of the opt-in plaintiffs in the Geddis case filed another class-action suit, and that one settled in 2012.  If the Anderson class-action lawsuit was a part of the Geddis tolling agreement, the statue of limitations would not have run, and the injured parties would not be barred from making a claim.  The state court determined that this was the case.

The court then looked at whether the GMWL could apply to the injured parties.  The GMWL requires an employer to pay no less than $5.15 per hour, but does not apply to any employee who is subject to federal minimum wage provisions if the federal minimum wage is greater than the GMWL minimum wage.  Since the federal minimum wage has been greater than Georgia’s minimum wage since 2007, the court determined that the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) controlled, not the GMWL.  In that case, the injured parties needed to include arguments as to why the FLSA did not apply in their complaint.

The court also found that the injured parties’ claims that their occupation did not fall within any exemption under the GMWL did not have factual support and did not meet the pleading standards set forth by Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  Therefore, the court dismissed the injured parties’ complaint, but gave them the opportunity to file an amended complaint containing more plausible GMWL arguments, provided it was filed within 21 days.

Parks, Chesin & Walbert represents plaintiffs in employment matters, including employment discrimination, wage and hour, FMLA, and more.  With offices in Atlanta and Nashville, we offer a client-centered philosophy and strive to accomplish our clients’ goals as if they are our own.  If you live in Georgia or Tennessee and need an experienced Atlanta employment law attorney, contact us today at 404-873-8048.

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