The Importance of Rules Compliance in Your Federal FLSA Lawsuit, and What to Do When Your Employer Doesn’t Follow the Rules

In 2014, a children’s author released her new book for 4-7 year-olds, entitled I Can Follow the Rules. The benefit of following the rules is a lesson taught from a young age. Failure to follow the rules has its own set of potential consequences. That’s true whether you’re a student in pre-K or a litigant in federal court. This is a huge reason why it pays to have a knowledgeable Atlanta unpaid overtime lawyer on your side: both to ensure you’re in compliance and to utilize your opposition’s failure to satisfy the rules to your maximum benefit.

You can see what we mean in a recent federal case regarding an allegation of unpaid overtime in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The worker, V.C., had held a sales professional role for an Alpharetta hair restoration clinic until mid-November 2019 when the clinic fired her.

After that termination, the saleswoman sued the clinic and its CEO for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, alleging that the employer improperly withheld commissions and failed to pay her overtime compensation that she’d earned.

As many employers do when a worker (or former employee) initiates an FLSA lawsuit, the clinic and its CEO filed a motion for summary judgment. That is a request asking the judge to enter judgment in that party’s favor because no potential set of facts could possibly yield an outcome favoring the other side.

How Your Employer’s Procedural Defects Can Help Your Case

When you’re pursuing an FLSA case in federal court, there are several sets of rules that, if your employer failed to comply with them, you can use to advance your case. There are legal rules, a/k/a the requirements of the FLSA itself (such as the rules for calculating a worker’s correct rate of overtime compensation.) There also are the procedural rules, which include both the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the local court rules, the latter of which are specific to that district court.

The local rules for the Northern District of Georgia require the party who filed a motion for summary judgment to include a statement of what it proposes are the facts of the case that are not in dispute. The opposing party, in turn, is required to include its proposed statement of undisputed material facts in its responsive filing.

After that, the local rules require the party requesting summary judgment to file a reply to the opposing party, addressing each of the facts mentioned in the opposing party’s filing.

That final step was the crucial one in the saleswoman’s case. After the clinic filed for summary judgment, the saleswoman filed all of her required paperwork, including her proposed statement of undisputed material facts. The clinic, however, never filed the required reply document addressing the facts the saleswoman listed. The rules say that, when that happens, the judge generally will construe most or all of the undisputed material facts the “non-moving party” (in this case, the saleswoman) listed in their paperwork as true.

Why was this so important in V.C.’s case? Because some of those “undisputed” facts actually weren’t, and the employer’s failure to follow to rules meant that the court adopted the saleswoman’s version of events. In other words, while the employer asserted that the saleswoman typically arrived at work around 11:00 am every day, the court followed the employee’s assertion, meaning that the judge determined that V.C. undisputed arrived at 11:00 only periodically, and generally only did so after working very late the night before, sometimes as late as 1:00 am.

It’s not difficult to see how this difference could go a long way to strengthening the case of a worker alleging unpaid overtime, and undermine the employer’s request for summary judgment.

Suffice it to say, the clinic’s motion for summary judgment failed.

Employment law, especially matters like minimum wage and unpaid overtime cases, is full of rules and requirements. Similarly, employment litigation imposes an additional set of procedural rules for pursuing or defending a case. When your employer has failed to comply with one or more rules, there are outcomes that failure potentially triggers, and those outcomes can be a major boon to you. Getting to those positive outcomes often requires an in-depth knowledge of the rules of law and the rules of procedure. When you need to pursue an FLSA case, count on the experienced Atlanta unpaid overtime attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert to provide you with exactly that kind of knowledge-based, experience-driven, and detail-oriented representation. Contact us through this website or at 404-873-8048 to schedule a consultation.

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