The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers in New York and around the country to pay their workers an overtime rate of at least one and a half times their regular hourly rate when they work more than 40 hours during a standard workweek. The landmark 1938 law does not apply to those who perform professional, administrative or executive duties. However, the FLSA’s language does not make clear what is and what is not a white-collar job, and it has been left to the courts to make these decisions when workers file claims over unpaid overtime.
A recent case dealing with this matter involved two welding inspectors who filed an FSLA claim because they were denied overtime pay while working on a pipeline construction project in 2013 and 2014. Their employer, a Texas-based construction management company, claimed that the FLSA did not apply because the two workers performed white-collar jobs and earned over $100,000 per year. An Ohio district court judge was swayed by this argument and granted the company’s motion to dismiss the case.
The two welding workers appealed the district court decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and a panel of judges ruled on Dec. 19 to overturn the lower court’s decision. The ruling stated that workers could not be denied the protections offered by the FLSA simply because their level of income would normally be associated with professional, administrative or executive duties.
Litigating claims under federal or state wage and hour laws can sometimes be frustrating, and workers may feel that that pursuing unpaid overtime is not worth the effort involved. Attorneys with experience in this area may understand these reservations, but they might also point out that employers worried about similar claims being filed in the future may wish to settle these matters rather than risk losing in court.