The Many Reasons Why It Is Important to Choose Wisely When Your Employer Makes a Settlement Offer in Your Minimum Wage Case

When you retain a knowledgeable Atlanta minimum wage lawyer, you are getting more than just the things that that attorney knows about the law itself. You are also getting the benefit of everything that that lawyer knows about trials and trial practice, including all of the procedural rules and requirements. You are getting your counsel’s knowledge of a case’s value, derived from his/her past professional experiences. When you choose the right attorney, you are getting a wealth of knowledge in all of these areas, which can help at every step along the way, including making settlement-versus-litigation decisions or carrying out an appeal.

Taking the correct steps at each of these junctures is crucial to maximizing your success. A minimum wage case that was recently before the federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is a good example.

The worker in the case, R.V., was a salesman at a vehicle dealership. The salesman’s lawsuit alleged that the employer forced him to work off the clock without paying him a minimum wage, in addition to other violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The salesman asserted that the employer owed him more than $12,700 in damages.

The employer offered to settle the case for $3,500, but the salesman declined. At the end of the two-day trial, the court agreed with R.V. that the employer had violated the FLSA, but awarded only a fraction of what the settlement offer was.

R.V.’s award was extremely small even though the court determined that he was entitled to something called “liquidated damages.” (In minimum wage cases filed under the FLSA, liquidated damages can mean that you may be entitled to double the amount you improperly weren’t paid. R.V.’s case was one of those matters where that kind of 2x award was proper.)

Unfortunately for the salesman, the court concluded that he was only entitled to two times the minimum wage times the number of hours for which he illegally didn’t get paid. That meant 2 x $8.10 x 12 hours, or a grand total of $194.40.

Erroneously Declining a Settlement Offer May Make You Responsible for The Other Side’s Costs  

Besides losing out on a larger payout, the decision to decline the settlement had an additional negative impact, which was that R.V. had to pay some of the employer’s costs. Because the salesman refused the offer and because the result of the trial was a less successful outcome for R.V. than accepting the settlement would have been, the federal rules say that the salesman was responsible for paying the costs that the employer racked up after it made the offer. This sum put the worker on the hook for $1,340 of the employer’s costs.

The salesman tried to appeal the ruling but his appeal never got off the ground due to a technical error. The trial court entered its final judgment in late October 2018. R.V. did not file his appeal until Feb. 21, 2019. The law requires that dissatisfied parties must file their notices of appeal within 30 days. R.V.’s notice of appeal came more than 100 days after the judgment, making it well past the deadline, so the appeals court never even considered the merits of the salesman’s arguments.

What you can take away from all this is that many potential pitfalls exist in FLSA litigation. Declining a settlement offer you should have accepted (or vice versa) or failing to submit court papers before the rules’ deadlines are only a few of the ways that things can go very wrong. To make sure your case doesn’t get tripped up by an avoidable pitfall, get legal counsel upon which you can confidently rely. Look to the skilled Atlanta minimum wage attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert. Our firm has a long track record of helping workers just like you in minimum wage cases, providing the thoughtful advice and determined advocacy you need. Contact us through this website or at 404-873-8048 to schedule a consultation.

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