Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Archives

2015 FLSA Litigation: On the Rise

During the last 15 years, wage and hour lawsuits filed in federal court have risen over 450%. According to the Judicial Resource Center, 8,781 Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuits were filed in 2015, which is a 7.6 percent increase from 2014. This year has seen new federal labor proposed regulations, the fight for higher minimum wage, an increased scrutiny on independent contractor classification and joint employer status. Experts believe these events, changes and public awareness have contributed to the rising onslaught of wage and hour suits. [1]

Zannikos and the Fifth Circuit: Highly Compensated Oil Workers May be Exempt from the FLSA

Over the winter, our firm wrote an article about various FLSA exemptions and used the case of Zannikos v. Oil Inspections to illustrate the application of the highly compensated employee exemption. To summarize, in 2012, Vasilios Zannikos, on behalf of all similarly situated employees, filed suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas against his employer, Oil Inspections U.S.A. He alleged his employer failed to pay him overtime wages pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Oil Inspections U.S.A. specializes in loss control operations in connection with oil cargo transfers. Zannikos was employed as a marine superintendent. This job required the Plaintiff to monitor and observe oil transfer operations, ensuring they were performed accurately, legally and safely. Plaintiffs served as quality control by inspecting loading and discharge equipment, identifying problems with equipment, safety or calibration, and then recommending remedies to the customers or Oil Inspections. Oil Inspections responded to this suit by filing for summary judgment, alleging marine superintendents were exempt from the requirements of the FLSA because their some of their duties were administrative and they were highly compensated employees. Both parties moved for summary judgment. On January 30, 2014, the District Court entered an order that Vasilios Zannikos was exempt from the FLSA due to the fact he was highly compensated, however the court did not find marine superintendents to be administrative employees. Both parties filed appeals and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed this ruling. Zannikos v. Oil Inspections (U.S.A.), Inc., 14-20253, 2015 WL 1379882, at *1 (5th Cir. Mar. 27, 2015).

Department of Labor to Propose New Overtime Rules

The Executive Branch has pushed for the expansion of overtime availability. Last year, President Obama used his executive authority to trigger a review and revision of the current overtime rules, which currently prevent certain classes of salaried workers from receiving overtime compensation. Specifically, Obama asked the Department to reevaluate the salary threshold at which employers are no longer obligated to pay employees overtime. That weekly threshold has been $455 since 2004. A change in that threshold level could make low-level supervisors in retail, fast food, health care and other industries eligible for overtime pay.

FLSA: Employers, the Courts and Private Settlements

No matter how an employer choses to handle an FLSA complaint, it is important to know that the FLSA requires the Department of Labor to supervise all potential violation settlements. This means that employees who receive severance packages or conditioned settlement agreements that purport to release all employment-related claims, may have not effectively released all of their claims under the FLSA.

Home Care Aides and the FLSA: Judicial Checks on the Department of Labor

In 2014, the Department of Labor adopted a new regulation, scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2015. This new regulation aimed to eliminate an exemption from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for home care aides and those who provide live-in domestic services. On December 22, 2014 U.S. District Court for Washington D.C. struck down this new regulation in the case of Home Care Association of America v. Weil. [1]

The Black Swan Case: Unpaid Interns and the FLSA

In 2011, two unpaid production interns who worked on the set of the film, Black Swan, filed suit against Fox Searchlight Pictures, alleging the company had violated New York and federal minimum wage laws. These interns were required to perform tasks such as organizing filing cabinets, making photocopies, taking lunch orders and answering phones. In June of 2013, federal judge, William H. Pauley III, ruled these interns should have been paid wages and were in fact regular employees. This decision could upend the practices of industries who have become reliant on unpaid interns. [1]

Lessons from Wal-Mart: The Importance of Keeping Accurate Employee Records

For decades, Wal-Mart has been an enormously successful, if not controversial, corporation. Wal-Mart has been lauded for their efficiency and lasting profitability. However, due to poor employee policies and payroll record keeping, the Wal-Mart has been besieged with costly employment lawsuits claiming the company has failed to compensate employees in accordance with state and federal laws.

Integrity Employment Solutions v. Busk: Bringing Certainty to Employers

On Tuesday December 9, 2014, businesses everywhere were provided with a valuable tool in defending themselves from FLSA litigation. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a staffing agency was not required to pay workers at Amazon Warehouses for the time they spent waiting to go through a security checkpoint at the end of their shifts.[1] The Plaintiffs alleged this process could take up to twenty five minutes. However, Kelly Cheeseman, the spokesperson for Amazon stated these allegations were entirely untrue, and Amazon has a global process to ensure the screenings do not take longer than ninety seconds.[2] The workers were hired by a third party agency, Independent Employment, to retrieve and package inventory for shipment at Amazon warehouses. In order to combat employee theft, workerswere required to undergo a security screening at the end of the workday. These kinds of checks are common among retailers, as the industry loses an estimated $16 billion annually from theft.[3]