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Court rules chef's overtime case can proceed

New York workers who are not exempt must be compensated for overtime, but sometimes that right must be fought for in court. For example, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas has ruled that a hospital chef has the right to go to trial over her claims of overtime and retaliation.

According to court documents, the plaintiff was hired as chief chef by Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Arlington, Texas, in 2005. During her time there, she directed the preparation of food for hospital patients, guests and staff. She also spent around 10 percent of her time acting as a manager to her staff and setting their schedules. The plaintiff alleges she was routinely required to work at least 50 hours per week but was not compensated for overtime by the hospital. She claims she was fired on April 21, 2015, one hour after filing an overtime complaint with the hospital's CEO. She sued the hospital over claims that her employer failed to pay overtime and retaliated against her in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The hospital countered that it did not know about about the plaintiff's complaint when it fired her and sought to dismiss the case on the grounds that she was an exempt manager. The district judge upheld a lower court's ruling that the hospital failed to establish that the plaintiff was an exempt manager under the FLSA. In order to claim an employee is exempt, an employer must show that management is a worker's "primary duty". The case is moving forward.

Employees involved in overtime disputes may find it necessary to speak with an employment attorney. An attorney could explain how to properly document unfair pay practices and outline the available legal remedies.

Source: SHRM, "Chef with Management Duties Could Proceed with Overtime Claim," Jeffrey Rhodes, Feb. 2, 2017

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