— Posts About Wage and Hour

US Supreme Court to Decide Important Wage and Hour Case

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States granted a writ of certiorari in Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham Corp.  The Ninth Circuit’s opinion, now on appeal, can be viewed here.  The issue was whether pharmaceutical sales representatives are “outside salesman” as referenced in Section 213(a) of the Fair Labor Standards Act and therefore exempt from legal overtime requirements.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the salespeople were exempt from overtime, thus refusing to defer to the Department of Labor’s regulations on this issue.

The Supreme Court has granted review on these issues:

“(1) Whether deference is owed to the Secretary of Labor’s interpretation of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s outside sales exemption and related regulations; and (2) whether the Fair Labor Standards Act’s outside sales exemption applies to pharmaceutical sales representatives.”

The petition for certiorari may be viewed here.

Categories: Judicial Decisions Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Supreme Court Expands Wage and Hour Retaliation Claims

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of an employee last week in Kasten V. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp, which involves a retaliation claim based on verbal complaints of wage and hour violations.

The plaintiff, an employee at Saint-Gobain, complained verbally several times about the placement of the time clock at Saint-Gobain being unlawful.  The time clock was placed beyond the area where workers were required to dress in protective clothing thus they were not paid for the time they donned and doffed their protective work gear.  A lower court ruled in a related case that the placement of the time clock was indeed a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.  In this case, the Court considered the use of the phrase “filed any complaint” and whether it allowed for a complaint about a violation to be filed orally or if it strictly limited complaints to be filed in writing.  Justice Breyer thoroughly defined the word “file” and “filed” only to conclude that what really mattered was the spirit of the text.  Breyer found that the intended purpose of the FLSA was to protect employees many of which, at the time the law was written, were illiterate and incapable of filing complaints in writing.  The Court concluded that employees may file complaints orally if the complaint is “sufficiently clear and detailed [enough] for a reasonable employer to understand it.”  The Court, however, did not address an equally important issue about whether a complaint must be filed with a government agency, not simply an employer, to fall within the standards of the FLSA anti-retaliation provision.

This case is a partial win for employees, granting them further protection against employment discrimination under the FLSA.  (More coverage here.)

UPDATE: Jonathan Harkavy’s commentary on this case can be found here from his overview of the Supreme Court’s employment law decisions during their 2010 session.

Categories: Judicial Decisions Tags: , , , , , ,

Patterson Harkavy Wins in Fourth Circuit for Underpaid Workers

In Simmons v. United Mortgage and Loan Investment, LLC, the Fourth Circuit ruled for plaintiffs and reversed the district court in this wage and hour case.  The plaintiffs are Charlotte-based Junior Asset Managers for a mortgage company who were not paid overtime even though they worked more than 40 hours per week.  They brought claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and North Carolina Wage and Hour Act (NCWHA) based on the failure to pay overtime.  The primary issue is whether the plaintiffs will be able to pursue their case as a collective and class action on behalf the other underpaid workers at the company.  The defendants tried to short-circuit the collective/class action process by tendering a limited settlement offer before other workers could be notified of the case.  The Fourth Circuit rejected this tactic, finding the settlement too indefinite to moot the case.  The Court remanded the case to the trial court to consider plaintiff’s motion to certify the collective action and plaintiffs’ amendments to the NCWHA claims.  Ann Groninger, Burton Craige, and Narendra Ghosh are representing the plaintiffs.

More from the opinion below:

Read more…

Categories: Judicial Decisions, News of the Firm Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Burton Speaking at NCAJ Conference This Weekend

Burton Craige and Leto Copeley are speaking this weekend at the North Carolina Advocates for Justice Mountain Magic Conference.  Burton is leading a panel entitled “Collateral Attack on the Collateral Source Rule.”  He will lead a discussion about the national trend to allow defendants to introduce evidence of the amount actually paid for medical expenses, rather than limiting the evidence to the amount billed.

Leto will be speaking about employment law issues that workers’ compensation practitioners should be aware of, such as the ADA and FMLA.  Wage and hour issues are also important ones to consider.  As this short paper prepared by Leto and Narendra Ghosh states, “Workers’ compensation practitioners should remain vigilant for potential wage and hour violations as they pursue claims for their clients. When getting information on a client’s average weekly wage, for instance, it is important to at least consider whether your client is getting paid fully, including for overtime, under the wage and hour laws.”

Categories: News of the Firm Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Magistrate Judge Concludes that Smithfield Wage and Hour Collective Action Should Proceed

In this case, plaintiffs are bringing collective action claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) based on the under-payment of wages and overtime at Smithfield Packing’s Tar Heel, North Carolina meat processing facility.  Magistrate Judge Gates issued an opinion last week recommending that defendant’s motion to decertify the FLSA collective action be denied.  If his recommendation is approved by the district judge, the case will proceed to trial as a collective action.  The plaintiffs are represented by several lawyers, including Ann Groninger.

Continue for details from the opinion: Read more…

Categories: Judicial Decisions, Results Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

NC Court of Appeals Upholds Jury Verdict for Employee to Collect Earned Bonuses

Earlier this month, the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued Kornegay v. Aspen Asset Group LLC, an interesting case that raises and decides some key issues under the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act (NCWHA).  At issue was whether the employee-plaintiff had a contract that included bonus payments, and if so, whether those had to be paid to him.  Plaintiff worked for a real estate developer and claimed to have an oral (never written) contract that provided for bonus payments based on properties that he helped sell.  The primary issue was whether there was in fact an oral contract; the Court upheld the jury’s finding that there was an enforceable contract that included bonus payments.  Given that there was a contract for bonuses, the Court then turned to whether plaintiff was owed these bonues under the NCWHA.

Continue for further analysis:  Read more…

Categories: Judicial Decisions Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Reply Brief Filed for Simmons Appeal in Fourth Circuit

In Simmons v. United Mortgage and Loan Investment, LLC, we have filed this reply brief with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in this wage and hour case.  See here for a summary of the case.   Ann Groninger, Burton Craige, and Narendra Ghosh are representing the plaintiffs, who are seeking to remedy the company’s failure to pay overtime to themselves and other Junior Asset Managers.  Here is a summary of our argument to the Court:

Read more…

Categories: News of the Firm Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Brief Filed for Underpaid Workers in FLSA Appeal to Fourth Circuit

In Simmons v. United Mortgage and Loan Investment, LLC, we have filed this opening brief with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in this wage and hour case.  The plaintiffs are Charlotte-based Junior Asset Managers for a mortgage company who were not paid overtime even though they worked more than 40 hours per week.  They brought claims under the FLSA and NC Wage and Hour law based on the failure to pay overtime.  The primary issue is whether the plaintiffs will be able to pursue their case as a collective and class action on behalf the other underpaid workers at the company.  The defendants have tried to short-circuit the collective/class action process by tendering a limited settlement offer before other workers could be notified of the case.  Ann Groninger, Burton Craige, and Narendra Ghosh are representing the plaintiffs. Read more…

Categories: News of the Firm Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Recent Fourth Circuit Labor and Employment Decisions

The Fourth Circuit has published opinions in three labor and employment cases in recent weeks.  The first case, Sepulveda v. Allen Family Foods, Inc., concerned a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) collective action that was brought on behalf of a class of current and former employees of a chicken processing plant.  The employees claimed, among other things, that the company had violated the FLSA by not compensating them for time spent donning and doffing their protective gear before and after their shifts.  There is a specific exception in FLSA for cases regarding compensable time for “changing clothes” when the employees are represented by a union that has negotiated a collective bargaining unit.  The Court held that putting on and taking off protecting gear was “changing clothes,” so the exception applied because these plaintiffs had a union, and so judgment was rightly granted to the employer.

Read more…

Categories: Judicial Decisions Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Study Shows that Low Wage Workers are Subject to a Host of Employment and Labor Law Violations

A new study, “Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers,” shows that employers routinely violate the employment rights  of low wage workers, with frequent violations of the wage and hour laws, workers’ compensation laws, and anti-retaliation protections.  (The original study is here; a summary of the study is here.)  Here are some of the startling findings:

  • 68 percent of the workers interviewed had experienced at least one pay-related violation in the previous work week, including failures to pay earned wages, at least minimum wage, or overtime pay.
  • 26 percent of the workers had been paid less than the minimum wage the week before being surveyed and that one in seven had worked off the clock the previous week.
  • 76 percent of those who had worked overtime the week before were not paid their proper overtime. Read more…

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