Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

On March 7, 2019, the United States Department of Labor (“USDOL”) issued its long-awaited proposed rule that would increase the minimum salary threshold to qualify for exemption from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) from their current level of $455 per week ($23,660 annually) to $679 per week ($35,308 annually). The proposed rule would also raise the threshold for “highly-compensated employees” from $100,000 annually to $147,414 per year. It is anticipated that the changes will extend overtime coverage to approximately one million United States workers. The proposed rule will be subject to a period of public comment and is anticipated to take effect in January 2020.
Continue Reading United States Department of Labor Issues Final Rule Concerning Minimum Salary Threshold to Qualify for Exemption from Overtime Under the Fair Labor Standards Act

Last week, the California State Supreme Court struck a decisive victory in favor of payroll companies, issuing a unanimous opinion that an employee is not a third-party beneficiary of the contract between her employer and its payroll service provider. The court held that an employee-plaintiff has no standing to sue her employer’s payroll company for an alleged failure to pay wages under California’s employee-friendly labor laws.
Continue Reading California Supreme Court Announces a Win for Payroll Outsourcing Industry

On July 26, 2018, the California Supreme Court issued its long awaited decision in Troester v. Starbucks Corporation (S234969) on whether California wage and hour law recognizes the de minimis doctrine established by the United States Supreme Court in Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co. 328 U.S. 680 (1946) for wage claims arising under federal law.  Under the federal de minimis rule, small amounts of otherwise compensable work time are not actionable when tracking and paying for it is impractical.  Anderson held: “When the matter in issue concerns only a few seconds or minutes of work beyond the scheduled working hours, such trifles may be disregarded.  Split-second absurdities are not justified by the actualities of working conditions or by the policy of the Fair Labor Standards Act.  It is only when an employee is required to give up a substantial measure of his time and effort that compensable working time is involved.”  Id. at 692.  In deciding whether compensable work time is de minimis, federal courts consider “(1) the practical administrative difficulty of recording the additional time; (2) the aggregate amount of compensable time; and (3) the regularity of the additional work.” See e.g. Lindow v. U.S. 738 F.2d 1057, 1063 (9th Cir. 1984); Kellar v. Summit Seating Inc., 664 F.3d 169, 176 (7th Cir. 2011); Kosakow v. New Rochelle Radiology Assocs., P.C. 274 F.3d 706, 719 (2d Cir. 2001).  Ten minutes or less is generally considered de minimis under federal law.  See Lindow, 738 F.2d at 1062.  The issue before the California Supreme Court in Troester (certified from the Ninth Circuit) was whether California wage and hour law recognizes the same or a similar rule.  Even though de minimis worktime is (by definition) small and insignificant, whether or not a de minimus exception to the requirement to pay for all time worked applies has major implications because relatively small amounts of unpaid wages have the potential to trigger substantial penalties and liability for plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees in California.
Continue Reading California Supreme Court Issues Narrow Holding In De Minimis Case, Leaving Many Issues Unresolved

In a welcome departure from its recent practice, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) recently issued its first new opinion letters in almost ten years. In addition to issuing three new opinion letters earlier this month, on January 5, 2018, WHD reissued seventeen opinion letters previously withdrawn under the Obama administration.

The resurrection of this practice offers employers a useful tool to ensure compliance with federal employment laws. Prior to the Obama administration, the WHD had a longstanding practice of issuing opinion letters in response to inquiries from employers concerning the application of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and other laws enforced by the WHD. These letters have traditionally provided guidance to both employers and employees concerning compliance with the laws and regulations under WHD’s purview. Significantly, for employers, good faith reliance upon WHD’s opinion letters can provide a defense to potential claims of a violation of the FLSA or other laws under the WHD’s jurisdiction.
Continue Reading Department of Labor Offers Employers Clarity By Resuming Its Practice of Issuing Opinion Letters

Last week, the ridesharing giant, Uber, secured a resounding legal win when a federal judge dismissed a putative class action lawsuit alleging the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay drivers overtime. The ruling is enormously important, not simply for Uber, but for the growing rideshare technology industry as a whole.

Less than a decade ago, outside of calling a cab company and hoping for the best, the notion of reliably getting from ‘here to there’ via a few button presses on a cell phone was unthinkable. Things have changed. Uber—the now-ubiquitous application that allows patrons to hail various styles of ride—has wholly disrupted the transportation service industry. According to the latest estimates, over 160 thousand Uber drivers dot the roads. Those drivers provide approximately 40 million rides each month, and the company’s 2017 valuation reached $69 billion. The term “Uber” has become a verb (e.g., “I’ll Uber there”) analogous to “just Google it” or “xerox the document.”


Continue Reading Uber Drivers’ Class Action Lawsuit Hits Permanent Red Light

The recent passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 (“H.R. 1625”), an 878-page omnibus spending bill, significantly changes the rules for tip pooling under the Fair Labor Standards Act (the “FLSA”). While the conditions for taking a tip credit toward federal minimum wage obligations remain essentially unchanged, H.R. 1625 appears to permit the inclusion of a larger group of employees in tip pools when a tip credit is not taken. At the same time, H.R. 1625 still prohibits an employer from keeping any portion of the tips received by its employees and expands the scope of remedies and penalties available for violations of the tip rules.
Continue Reading New Tip Pooling Guidelines For Employers

Washington D.C. may become the next local government to require that restaurants pay minimum wage to its servers, bartenders, and any other workers who currently earn a “tipped wage” – a lower base wage, plus tips. Presently, that base wage is $3.33 per hour.
Continue Reading D.C. Voters Will Decide Whether to Eliminate Tipped Restaurant Wages

On Tuesday, March 6, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced its launch of the Payroll Audit Independent Determination (PAID) Program (“PAID” or the “Program”) – aimed at increasing employers’ FLSA compliance and timely payment of back wages to employees. The Program, which will start with a six-month pilot period prior to evaluation and finalization, is explained in detail below.

What is the PAID Program’s Goal?

The Program’s goal is to increase compliance with the FLSA’s overtime and minimum wage requirements by providing employers the opportunity to self-audit and report inadvertent non-compliance without fear of litigation or penalties. The Program also hopes to expedite payment of back pay to affected employees and to cut down on litigation costs to employers, employees, and taxpayers.
Continue Reading Department of Labor Announces New Payroll Audit Pilot Program

In a decision issued earlier this month, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that participants in unpaid internship programs offered by the Hearst Corporation could not be classified as “employees” of Hearst and therefore were not entitled to compensation for their internships under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The Second Circuit’s decision in Wang v. Hearst Corp., No. 16-3302 (2d Cir. 2017) (available here) affirmed a 2016 decision by U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken granting summary judgment for Hearst and dismissing the claims of lead plaintiff Xuedan Wang and four other college-age individuals working as unpaid interns for Hearst’s various print magazines. The Second Circuit made clear reference to the case’s underlying significance, framing the question raised on appeal as “whether Hearst furnishes bona fide for‐credit internships or whether it exploits student‐interns to avoid hiring and compensating entry-level employees.”
Continue Reading Second Circuit Court of Appeals Rules That Hearst Interns Are Not Employees

Last month, the Sixth Circuit revived a lawsuit brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) alleging that a retailer’s commission policy was unlawful in Stein v. hhgregg, Inc., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 19908 (6th Cir. Ohio Oct. 12, 2017). The decision provides support for the legality of taking a draw on an employee’s future commissions, and highlights the problem with having a policy that requires repayment of draws upon termination.
Continue Reading Sixth Circuit Provides Clarification On Legality Of Draw-On-Commission Policy