Whether a Human Resources Director will be deemed the “employer” and held individually liable for alleged violations under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) should be left to the jury, according to the Second Circuit’s recent FMLA decision. In Graziadio v. Culinary Institute of America, et al., 15-888-cv (2d Cir. Mar. 17, 2016), the Second Circuit found that there could be a viable claim for individual liability under the FMLA and it also announced the standard for what could be considered unlawful “interference” with FMLA rights.
While the Supreme Court in Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo dashed employers’ hopes that the Court would broadly preclude statistical evidence and severely limit wage and hour class actions in a fashion similar to its restriction of discrimination class actions in Wal-mart v. Dukes, the Court was also clear that this type of evidence will not be appropriate or probative in all wage and hour claims. In ruling for the class action claimants, the Court affirmed a $2.9 million jury award for overtime claims related to donning and doffing at an Iowa pork processing plant. In so ruling, the Supreme Court refused to adopt the position advanced by Tyson Foods and several of its amici that class actions cannot be resolved by reliance upon representative evidence or statistical samples. It also refused to embrace Tyson Food’s reading of Wal-mart v. Dukes as standing for the proposition that representative sample is an impermissible means of establishing class-wide liability. But the Court also made clear whether statistical evidence could be used for liability depends on the claims asserted and the particular evidence. While the decision is not unsurprising after oral arguments, it seems likely that employers will see an uptick in plaintiffs aggressively relying on “representative” statistical evidence in wage and hour collective and class cases. There are, however, several “lessons learned” based upon the majority’s decision.
Solicitor of Labor Patricia Smith likes to quip that the Department is “working overtime on overtime.” DOL took a break from the much-anticipated overtime regulations and issued new guidance yesterday on the question of who qualifies as a “joint employer” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA). The guidance (Administrator’s Interpretation (AI) No. 2016-1) issued by Wage and Hour Division (WHD) Administrator Dr. David Weil, sets forth a broad (and sometimes ambiguous) reading of statutory provisions, regulations, and case law to address joint employment issues under the two statutes. The guidance was not unexpected as some advocates have been asking for the DOL’s position on joint employment since the NLRB’s expansion of joint employment in Browning-Ferris, 362 NLRB No. 186 (Aug. 27, 2015). Notably, the level of coordination between DOL and the NLRB on joint employment issues has been the subject of Congressional oversight and the oversight committee now claims that DOL provided suspect responses to members of Congress regarding interactions between the agencies on the issue.
A recently filed petition for certiorari asks the U.S. Supreme Court to clarify the procedural requirements for ending private causes of action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Specifically, petitioner Dorian Cheeks is asking the Supreme Court to review a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit holding that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41 (“FRCP 41”) prohibits the dismissal of FLSA claims through private, stipulated settlement agreements absent approval from either a federal district court or the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”).
The Second Circuit revived an FLSA collective action filed by Michael Lola, an attorney licensed to practice law in California, who for fifteen months performed document review services for Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP (“Skadden”) though a staffing agency while living and working in North Carolina. Lola alleged that these services did not constitute the “practice of law,” and that he was therefore eligible for overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Rejecting Lola’s arguments, a Southern District of New York judge dismissed the complaint on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion on the grounds that Lola was exempt from overtime. However, the Second Circuit held that when accepting all of Lola’s allegations as true for purposes of a motion to dismiss, his work might not constitute the practice of law.
In addressing a matter of first impression, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals set out a new standard to determine when an unpaid intern is deemed an employee for purposes of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and thus entitled to compensation, including minimum wage and overtime, under the FLSA. Two appeals were argued in tandem on this issue with the Second Circuit issuing an Opinion on July 2, 2015 in Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc., and a Summary Order in Wang v. Hearst Corp.
In a long awaited 9-0 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that employers are not required to compensate employees for time spent waiting for and undergoing security screenings (aka bag checks) under the Fair Labor Standards Act. It concluded that security screenings were noncompensable postliminary activities because they were not the “principal activities” the employees were employed to perform, nor were they “integral and indispensable” to those activities. The case is Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk, 574 U.S. ____ (2014) and a copy of the opinion can be found here.
Recently, there’s been a wave of Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) rulings adverse to employers in the adult entertainment industry. Early this year, a Southern District of New York judge approved an $8 million settlement for a class of dancers at an adult establishment who alleged that they were misclassified as independent contractors. See In re: Penthouse Executive Club Compensation Litigation, Case No. 1:10-cv-01145, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5864 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 14, 2014). And just last month, the court in Hart, et al. v. Rick’s Cabaret Int’l, Inc., Case No. 1:09-cv-03043, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 160264 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 14, 2014) which previously had held that dancers at the New York club were employees under the FLSA, denied a motion to decertify the class and awarded almost $11 million in damages to the dancers for FLSA violations.
“Sometimes surrender is the best option.” That is how Judge Raymond J. Dearie of the Eastern District of New York begins his opinion in Anjum v. J.C. Penney Co., Inc., before denying J.C. Penney’s motion to dismiss a putative Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) collective action based on the company’s offer to pay the claims of four named plaintiffs with offers of judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68—a strategy often referred to as “picking off.” Even though the court rejected J.C. Penney’s picking off attempt in this case, the judge’s opinion in Anjum recognizes the validity of this tactic and provides some practical lessons for defense counsel looking to successfully pick off an FLSA collective in the Second Circuit.
A district court in New York dismissed the putative collective action filed by a contract attorney who performed document review for Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom LLP (“Skadden”) for fifteen months. See Lola v. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), an employee is exempt from overtime as a professional employee if he or she is “the holder of a valid license . . . permitting the practice of law” and “who is actually engaged in the practice thereof.” 29 C.F.R. § 541.3. The named plaintiff and proposed class representative, David Lola, was a licensed attorney, and, therefore, the dispositive question was whether he was practicing law such that he qualified for the exemption.