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Third Circuit Defines “Willfulness” Under FLSA

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued a precedential opinion regarding “willful” violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).   There is a two-year statute of limitations under the FLSA unless the violations are deemed willful, in which case there is a three- year statute of limitations.

Plaintiffs in this case were a class of part-time Lackawanna County employees who worked in two separate part-time positions. According to the Court, Lackawanna County failed to aggregate the hours of the employees for purposes of calculating overtime.    The lawsuit asserts that Lackawanna County became aware that it was violating the FLSA in 2011, and several months later, it began aggregating the hours of the employees in calculating overtime pay. During the trial, the county admitted to violating the FLSA, but argued that the violation was not willful.    The trial court determined that the defendants’ poor time keeping records amounted to willful violations of the FLSA.

The Third Circuit disagreed and reasoned that there was no evidence that Lackawanna County was specifically aware of the FLSA rule it was violating. It opined that a plaintiff must show evidence of the employer’s awareness of a violation of the FLSA overtime mandate. The Court contrasted a case of clear willful violation, wherein an employer deliberately misclassified employees for nine years, and another case where a family failed to pay its nanny minimum wage.  Here, Lackawanna County addressed the problem within a year of learning it was violating the FLSA. The Court noted that it was likely a bureaucratic failure, and not a deliberate violation.

Philadelphia Overtime Dispute Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green Litigate FLSA Claims

At Sidkoff, Pincus & Green, we routinely represent plaintiffs in overtime and wage dispute matters. To schedule a consultation with a Philadelphia overtime dispute lawyer, call us today at 215-574-0600 or contact us online.