DOL Pivots, Providing Guidance Likely To Mitigate Recent Blitz of Minimum Wage Class Actions Related to Sleep Time And Off Duty Time Spent In Vehicles

Executive Summary: Almost all long-haul drivers are exempt from overtime under the motor carrier exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). However, these same drivers are not exempt from the FLSA’s minimum wage requirements. Due to the ongoing driver shortage, drivers’ rates far exceed the minimum wage, especially when considering the Motor Carrier Safety Act limits on-duty hours to 60 per week. So it’s no surprise that many motor carriers were caught off guard when federal courts found them liable for not paying minimum wage because they failed to count the time drivers spent sleeping as hours worked. In guidance issued July 22, 2019 the United States Department of Labor (DOL) addressed the circumstances when time in the sleeper berth is compensable and shifted the burden to drivers to prove they were performing compensable work in the berth, providing “straightforward” guidance for the motor carrier industry and a defense to the minimum wage claims. Continue reading

U.S. Women’s Soccer Team’s Equal Pay Fight Continues As They Defend Their Title As World Champions

Gray, Kristin - 300dpi
Kristin Gray

On March 8, 2019, all 28 players on the women’s national team, initiated a proposed class and collective action in the United States District Court for the Central District of California against the United States Soccer Federation alleging discrimination based on sex in violation of the Equal Pay Act (“EPA”) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (“Title VII”).  Notably, the players chose to file suit on International Women’s Day, which is intended to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, as well as to raise awareness of gender equality issues.  Their fight continues as they defend their title as world champions at the World Cup. Continue reading

Judge Refuses To Dismiss Domino’s Collective Action Without Seeing Settlement Agreement

Russell_Jackson_IL
Russell Jackson

On May 17, 2019, Judge Renee Marie Bumb of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey rejected the parties’ request to dismiss a Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) lawsuit without the Judge’s review of the settlement agreements.  In doing so, the District Court ordered defendants to submit the settlement agreement reached with the named plaintiff or attest that no agreement covering FLSA claims exists.  The case is Kessler v. Joarder Props., LLC, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83571 (D.N.J. May 17, 2019) and is a reminder for employers engaged in FLSA litigation that obtaining court approval is a requirement before dismissal of the action is proper. Continue reading

Alabama Passes State Equal Pay Act

On June 11, 2019, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed into law the Clark-Figures Equal Pay Act (the “Alabama EPA”). The Alabama EPA provides that it shall be unlawful for an employer to “pay any of its employees at wage rates less than those paid to employees of another sex or race for equal work within the same establishment on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and performance under similar working conditions.” The Alabama EPA takes effect September 1, 2019. Previously, employers and employees in Alabama were subject to the federal Equal Pay Act (the “EPA”). Similar to the EPA, no discriminatory intent has to be proven under the Alabama EPA, and an employee can recover the wage differential plus interest. In contrast to the EPA, the Alabama EPA does not permit recovery of liquidated damages (double the amount of the wage differential) or attorneys’ fees. Also in contrast to the EPA, the Alabama EPA requires parity in wages based on race as well as sex. The Alabama EPA specifically permits wage differentials resulting from a merit system, a seniority system, or a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production. An employer also may raise a defense that the wage differential was based on a factor other than sex or race, although the final version of the Alabama EPA does not provide any examples of such factors. Continue reading

How Many Benefits are Included in the Calculation of Regular Rate? The World May Never Know

Briit, Louis - 300dpi
Louis Britt

On March 28, 2019, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued a lengthy and detailed Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) to revise the regulations governing how employers should calculate “regular rate” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Upon release, the DOL set a deadline for public notice and comment of May 28, 2019. However, citing the interest expressed by “law firms, unions, and advocacy organizations,” the DOL extended the period for public comment to June 12, 2019. Continue reading

Ninth Circuit Applies Dynamex Retroactively

Executive Summary: In 2018, the California Supreme Court adopted the “ABC test” for determining whether workers are independent contractors under California wage orders (the Dynamex decision). For a discussion of that decision, please see our May 3, 2018 Alert. The ABC test makes it more difficult in many cases for companies to classify a worker as an independent contractor than under the prior generally-applied common law test. As such, the adoption of the ABC test increases many California employers’ exposure for minimum wage, overtime, meal and rest periods, and other benefits owed to employees but not to independent contractors. On May 2, 2019, in Vasquez v. Jan-Pro Franchising International, Inc., the Ninth Circuit concluded that the ABC test should be applied retroactively to situations that arose before the Dynamex decision came out. Continue reading

DOL Provides Roadmap to Avoid Misclassification of Gig Workers

Executive Summary: On April 29, 2019, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) released a new opinion letter, FLSA2019-6, examining whether service providers for a virtual marketplace company (VMC) are employees or independent contractors. This opinion letter provides a road map for online brokers of services provided by independent contractors to ensure they are not misclassified as employees. Continue reading