A lot of research and investigation goes into representing clients in the courtroom for wage and hour cases. But the good thing about wage claims is that employees very often have the upper hand against employers who, more often than not, knowingly paid employees incorrectly.
The Fair Labor Standards Act was enacted in 1938, but courts can interpret it in various ways and its application doesn't always cover every industry neatly. In one recent lawsuit, a group of hospital workers were on a thin line with their FLSA claim because of a widely accepted rule that could have completely dismissed their case.
Case in Point
A group of current and former hospital employees for Cambridge Health Alliance filed a wage and hour class action claim in October seeking payment for work done during meal breaks, and before and after their shifts from 2007 through 2010. The CHA workers claim that they often worked before and after their shifts and during their 30-minute meal breaks, often at the request of supervisors, but claim that CHA allegedly pressured employees not to record time worked outside their shifts. Employees also claim they were required to have cell phones and pagers during meal breaks and instructed to respond immediately to all calls.
Employer’s defense tries to dismiss case under Klinghoffer Rule.
The employer’s defense counsel tried to apply the Klinghoffer Rule, which holds that even if an employee is not paid for certain hours worked, the FLSA is not violated as long as the employee’s total weekly paycheck meets minimum wage.
Under this rule, the defendants claimed that the employees earned at least minimum wage for their hours worked, and should have no right to bring a claim under federal law.
Judge says popular ruling doesn’t fly in her courtroom; Workers can proceed with wage claim.
The Massachusetts district judge declined to recognize the rule, despite the fact that appellate courts have done so for almost 50 years. The judge held that a correct interpretation of the FLSA is inconsistent with the Klinghoffer Rule, because the FLSA stipulates that employees are to be paid for every hour they work. As a result, the workers have a valid wage claim.
The judge wrote that the Klinghoffer weekly average method “…ignores the plain language of the minimum wage provision and undermines the FLSA’s primary purpose of ensuring a fair wage for workers.”
The FLSA is clear cut.
This case is an example that an FLSA claim can often be open and shut, because employees who perform work should be paid correctly for it. Simple as that.
One simple way to find out if you have a claim.
Call our office at 888-449-2068 if you need our employment lawyers to review your job duties for free. We can determine if you are exempt or non-exempt, and if you are owed back wages or back overtime pay under the FLSA. You can also send us a contact form or order our free book.