Tennessee Cable Installers’ FLSA Class Action Goes Back Before Sixth Circuit After U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

A multi-million dollar class action case involving numerous Tennessee cable TV installers who were wrongly denied overtime pay will once again go before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. In a very short order, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the Sixth Circuit to take another look at the installers’ case in light of another case that, like the installers’ case, involved using statistical evidence to arrive at the amount of damages.

The case began when a group of cable installers for FTS USA LLC sued their employer. The installers accused the employer of using various techniques to deny them overtime improperly, in violation of the FLSA. FTS, the installers alleged, had a company-wide “time shaving” policy under which the employer instructed the installers to fill out inaccurate time sheets, with start times later than the employees began work, end times earlier than they stopped working, and lunch breaks that they never actually took. In their case, the technicians brought out evidence that this time shaving policy was initiated at the corporate level.

Based upon this, the installers launched the case as a FLSA collective action. A group of installers brought the case in federal court in Tennessee on behalf of themselves and all other FTS installers who had been improperly denied overtime pay by the time shaving policy.

Employers often fight hard to oppose class actions like this. Due to the potentially large number of employees who might fall into the class, a victory by the employees could be very expensive. FTS opposed allowing its case to go forward as a class action, but it lost that argument, both in the trial court and at the Sixth Circuit. The law requires that, in order to allow a case to move forward as a class action, the plaintiffs must prove that everyone in the potential class is “similarly situated,” meaning that they are alike in all aspects that matter for deciding the issues in the case.

The Sixth Circuit ruled that the installers were entitled to class certification because the law allowed for a less stringent standard for certifying class actions in FLSA cases, but the lower court used an incorrect “estimated-average” method and a multiplier to calculate the employees’ damages. That decision has encountered a detour, however. The U.S. Supreme Court threw out the Sixth Circuit’s ruling and ordered the Sixth Circuit to reconsider its ruling in the FTS case and, in doing so, consider the standards announced in the high court’s 2016 ruling in Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo. In that case, several Tyson employees, like the FTS installers, launched a class action against their employer for improperly denied overtime pay. In the Tyson case, the employees claimed they weren’t paid for the time it took to perform tasks like putting on or taking off protective gear.

Since there was no evidence about how long this “donning and doffing” took, the Tyson employees relied upon two studies that they submitted as representative evidence. The high court concluded in Tyson that employees could use statistical methods to calculate damages, as long as that calculation process could be extrapolated to identify the damages suffered by any individual employee. The Supreme Court ruling from December in FTS’ case does not demand that the Sixth Circuit reach a different result but only that it go back and analyze whether the statistical methods used in the FTS installers’ case were sufficient to meet the requirements announced in the Tyson ruling.

If you believe that your employer is improperly denying you overtime pay, you may have a claim under the FLSA. Talk to the experienced Tennessee overtime attorneys at Parks, Chesin & Walbert. Our attorneys have spent many years helping both employers and employees with overtime and other FLSA issues and can help you address your matter.

To speak with one of our lawyers about your case, call 404-873-8048.

More blog posts:

11th Circuit Allows Employees to Bring FLSA Collective Action and State Class Action in One Case, Atlanta Employment Attorneys Blog, Oct. 26, 2016

New Ruling Offers Information to Tennessee Employers and Employees about Employer’s Constructive Knowledge and Employee’s Working Overtime, Atlanta Employment Attorneys Blog, July 6, 2016

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