Suing employers for unpaid overtime sends a strong message that violations of wage and hour laws will not be tolerated. But when numerous employees band together they can wield power in an environment in which workers are often at a marked disadvantage. A judge recently upheld the right of employees to join in a collective lawsuit against an employer for failing to pay overtime as required by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Here we take a look at the decision and what you can do if you’re not being paid the overtime you’re entitled to.
The Facts of the Case
Plaintiff Valerie Loy filed a lawsuit against Rehab Services LLC, pursuant to the FLSA, alleging that the company failed to pay her and other workers for overtime. Rehab Services LLC provides physical and other therapy services in numerous facilities across Texas. Plaintiffs alleged that the employer encouraged employees to perform “off-the-clock” work that amounted to significantly more than 40 hours per week. Yet these employees were not compensated with time and a half pay as required by the FLSA.
Loy wanted to file her lawsuit as a collective action (similar to a class action) under the FLSA since the employer treated other employees in a similar manner. The company objected but a lower court sided with Loy. When the trial commenced, 22 workers expressed interest in joining the collective action. The jury in the case sided with the employees and determined that the employer willfully violated the FLSA.
Rehab fought the collective action every step of the way and even filed a motion after the verdict was handed down. The company then appealed to the Fifth Circuit and argued that the trial court made a mistake in permitting the collective action. In a unanimous opinion, the Fifth Circuit rejected the employer’s challenge, upheld the verdict, and upheld the trial court’s decision to allow the case to be pursued as a collective action.
Why the Decision Matters for Employees
The judge who wrote the Fifth Circuit opinion, Dana Douglas, explained that FLSA collective actions are vital measures that protect employees because they “lower individual costs to vindicate [overtime] rights by the pooling of resources.” The court system also benefits by “efficient resolution in one proceeding” of common factual and legal matters.
Notably, there was evidence that the employer had knowledge of the off-the-clock work, which violates the FLSA. It is quite common for employers to either ask or require their employees to work before shifts begin or after they end. Not only do employees not get paid for this time, but the time spent adds up and could result in an employee working more than 40 hours in a week (thereby qualifying the employee for overtime pay).
Have You Been Asked to Work Off the Clock? Talk to Us
Are you facing a similar situation to the plaintiffs in the Rehab case? Is your employer asking or requiring you to perform work-related duties without compensation? Do you have questions about your right to overtime pay? Our firm represents employees who are not being fairly paid for their work. Complete our confidential online client intake form to get started.