Finally . . .  Courts rule in favor of Employers

As you are no doubt aware, many employees do not hesitate to sue their employers for Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) violations.  There are a number of law firms that thrive on these lawsuits, and advertise relentlessly for the business.  Florida actually has 70% of all the FLSA lawsuits in the United States!

However, there has been a recent victory for employers in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.  They found that an employer who “tenders the entire amount of alleged overtime damages bars a claim for FLSA attorneys’ fees.”  (Dionne v. Floormasters Enterprises, Inc., F.3d.—,2011 WL 318977 (July 28, 2011) (11th Circ. 2011).

What does this mean? If you have had an FLSA violation where you failed to pay appropriate overtime to an employee and you deny liability and make the corrected payment for the entire amount of the FLSA wages claimed by a plaintiff, the lawsuit may be dismissed and you could avoid liability for payment of the plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees.  The hope is that this may deter attorneys from actively seeking out these cases.  At the least, this will reduce the cost if you are sued.

Listed below are some steps you should take to protect your business from FLSA lawsuits:

  1. Make certain that you have correctly classified your employees (Exempt and Non-Exempt).
  2. Keep accurate records of everyone’s time.
  3. Pay non-exempt workers overtime (1 ½ times their regular rate of pay) for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in any work week (a fixed, recurring period of 168 consecutive hours – 7 days x 24 hours).
  4. Monitor working time carefully.  (i.e., arriving early, staying late, meal breaks, taking work home, checking e-mails during non-working hours, etc.

The FLSA impacts every business.  If you have questions about classifying employees, timekeeping or defining “work” please contact Sandie Peterson, SPHR at (239) 433-5554.