On October 8, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk. In Busk, plaintiffs allege that, under the FLSA, their employer should have compensated them and other warehouse employees for time spent passing through the employer’s security clearance at the end of their shifts, including their time spent waiting in line to be searched. Busk is an important case to watch because the Court may provide employers with wide-ranging guidance on what pre-work or post-work tasks are compensable.
“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.
For forty hours, five days a week, for three years, Jayquan Brown provided services to New York City Department of Education’s Banana Kelly High School. Brown, who was a graduate of the school, was unable to secure a paid job after graduation and began an unpaid “volunteer internship” with the school. In that role, Brown assisted with student conflict resolution, lunch supervision, detention, parent contact, student escort, answered the telephone and handed out report cards and progress reports. He testified that he accepted the position with the goals of building his resume, modeling himself after one of his mentors—the school’s director of student life, and helping “show the kids that we do care.” Read More
The U.S. Supreme Court granted cert on March 3, 2014 in Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Jesse Busk to resolve a federal circuit split on whether time employees spend in security screenings is compensable under the FLSA. The issue is whether security screenings are quintessential “preliminary” or “postliminary” activities that are non-compensable under the FLSA (as held by the Second and Eleventh Circuits) or whether time spent in security screenings is potentially compensable because it is “integral and indispensable” to an employee’s principal job duties (as held by the Ninth Circuit). Read More
Spring training is just around the corner and major leaguers have already reported to their first workout. Meanwhile, an interesting development–three former minor leaguers have filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball, Bud Selig, and three MLB teams, claiming that the MLB has failed to pay overtime and minimum wages in violation of the FLSA and various state labor laws. According to the plaintiffs, the MLB “has a long, infamous history of labor exploitation dating to its inception” by hoarding players, depressing salaries, and preventing unionization of the minor leagues. See Complaint, Senne v. MLB, No. 3:14-cv-00608-JCS (N.D. Cal. Feb. 7, 2014), ECF No. 1. The case is presently before Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero. Read More
Updating a case we discussed last month, in Sandifer v. United States Steel Corp., No. 12-417 (January 27, 2014), the United States Supreme Court last week clarified the scope of Section 203(o) of the FLSA concerning which donning and doffing activities employers and employees can bargain to exclude from compensable time in collective bargaining agreements. In the process, the high Court also unanimously agreed upon which activities constitute “changing clothes” in regards to Section 203(o). Read More
Late last month, in the Southern District of Florida, adult entertainers at several Rick’s Cabaret locations filed a lawsuit alleging that they were improperly categorized (and thus improperly compensated) as independent contractors rather than employees. See Espinoza, et al. v. Rick’s Cabaret Int’l, Inc., Case No. 1:13-cv-24565-UU. In light of recent decisions, Rick’s—like other employers classifying workers as independent contractors—should proceed with caution.
The past several months have seen a spate of rulings adverse to employers in the adult entertainment context. Early last year, a Southern District of New York judge approved an $8 million settlement for a class of dancers at another 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. In September 2013, in a different S.D.N.Y. case, the court in Hart, et al. v. Rick’s Cabaret Int’l, Inc. found that dancers at the New York club location were employees, not independent contractors, for purposes of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the New York Labor Law. And just last week a Northern District of Georgia judge who previously certified a class of adult entertainers who alleged they were wrongly classified as independent contractors granted the entertainers’ summary judgment motion with respect to their status as employees under the FLSA. See Stevenson, et al. v. The Great American Dream, Inc., No. 1:12-CV-3359-TWT.
In finding no independent contractor relationship in Hart, the court cited the existence of club guidelines that governed dancers’ dress/appearance (e.g., body glitter forbidden, 4-inch stiletto heels required), behavior in the club (e.g., gum chewing or using a cell phone on the dance floor prohibited), when dancers could be scheduled to work, various fees dancers were required to pay, and manner of performance (e.g., prohibition on more than one knee touching the ground when performing on stage). Of virtually no significance was the fact that there were signed agreements between dancers and Rick’s Cabaret expressing that the employment relationship was that of an independent contractor.
Irrespective of industry, companies that utilize independent contractors are well advised to periodically reexamine the economic realities of those relationships.
Back on October 8, 2013, we highlighted three cases currently pending on the United States Supreme Court docket that employers will definitely want to follow. The cases address issues ranging from the proper interpretation of Sarbanes Oxley’s whistleblower provision to the breadth of Presidential NLRB appointment power, to what constitutes “changing clothes” under the FLSA. Although decisions have not yet come down, important developments have taken place in all three cases. Read More
The United States Supreme Court is now in session and three cases stand out on the docket that private employers will want to follow. While not the blockbusters heard during the Court’s last session, these cases will address important issues ranging from the proper interpretation of Sarbanes-Oxley Act’s whistleblower provision to the breadth of the President’s recess-appointment power to what constitutes “changing clothes” under the FLSA. Read More