Overtime Lawsuits – Blackberry Use and Outside Sales Exemptions

Overtime lawsuits are usually class and/or collective action suits by a group of employees alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and/or state employment laws at the hands of their employer.  Under the FLSA, “non-exempt” employees have the right to be paid overtime for any hours worked over a 40 hour workweek.  “Overtime” is calculated according to the FLSA as 1.5 times the regular rate of pay for any “non-exempt” employees working more than a 40 hour week.  Some states, such as California, have a daily overtime calculation as well.
  • The depressed economy is causing some employers to engage in unethical and unlawful behavior by dodging FLSA laws
  • The misclassification of employees by employers as being “exempt” from the overtime pay they deserve
  • Workers are taking notice and becoming more aware of their rights as more overtime lawsuits ensue in the workplace
  • Federal and state overtime laws are complicated and potentially confusing resulting in non-compliance
Overtime lawsuits are occurring rapidly in these hard economic times, as some employers are trying more than ever to pinch pennies at the expense of the rights of their employees. Companies are misclassifying their employees as being exempt from overtime pay, when in reality they should not be. The laws and regulations guiding overtime law on both the federal and state levels are complicated and always changing, therefore, even employers who believe they are in compliance may not be.   Workers are increasingly taking notice of their rights regarding the time they spend on work related duties and demand necessary compensation. An example of this is a case in Illinois where a police officer is suing for overtime pay for non-traditional hours spent on work related tasks done from his PDA. Police Officer Sues for Overtime Worked on Work Related Issues from his Blackberry In the case of Allen v. City of Chicago, in August of 2010, a police officer alleges he is owed overtime pay for time he spent outside of traditional working hours by responding to work related issues via email, voicemail, blackberries, and other PDA’s.  The Northern District of Illinois will decide the case later in the year, but the court will likely hold that such time constitutes “hours worked”, and thus needs to be compensated. Employer’s misunderstanding of ” What is work?” is commonly leads to the need for lawsuits regarding overtime hours. HealthFirst Hands Over 7.7 Million in Class Action Settlement for Misclassifying Employees as “Exempt” In a second example of overtime lawsuits, the outside sales FLSA exemption was tested when outside sales and marketing professionals proved that they do not meet the exemption requirements because they do not “make sales” or “obtain contracts”. This case, “Willix et al v. HealthFirst, Inc.et al.”, is the second overtime suit filed by a class of HMO marketing representatives in the Eastern District of New York.  The plaintiffs, whom HealthFirst claims are exempt outside salespeople, are current and former Marketing Representatives who regularly worked well over 40 hours a week identifying Medicaid-eligible individuals at various locations throughout New York City and Long Island and helping them sign-up for free health insurance programs.  HealthFirst paid over 7.7 million dollars to settle the class action suit which alleged the company violated federal and state overtime laws by failing to pay overtime hours worked over forty in a week.

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