Established 1958 ~ Hardball Business Litigation & Complex Negotiations

Third Circuit Court Affirms Grant of Summary Judgment in PMWA Statutory Construction Case

In Livi v. Hyatt Hotels Corp., No. 17-3646, 2018 WL 4944823 (3d Cir. 2018) the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Hyatt Hotels in a Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act (“PMWA”) and Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law (“WPCL”) action. Plaintiff, a banquet server for Hyatt, filed a class action complaint on behalf of herself and similarly situated individuals alleging that she worked more than 40 hours but was not paid overtime and that she was entitled to contractual service charge which Hyatt retained.

Under Pennsylvania law, service establishments (including hotels) are not required to pay overtime to employees working more than 40 hours per week if they are exempt from the overtime requirement under 34 Pa. Code § 231.43(f). An employer may be exempt if the “regular rate of pay of the employee is in excess of 1 ½ times the minimum hourly rate applicable” or “more than half of the employee’s compensation for a representative period, not less than 1 month, represents commissions on goods or services.” Plaintiff fell within both exemptions because the Court found her regular rate of pay at Hyatt was more than 1 ½ times the minimum wage and the service charges Hyatt paid her comprised more than half her compensation.

However, Plaintiff argued that Hyatt was not exempt from the overtime requirement because the service charges do not “represent commissions on goods or services” under the Pa. Code. The Court reasoned that although the relevant Pennsylvania statutes do not define “commission” and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had no guidance on the issue, it was appropriate for the Court to look to Pennsylvania’s intermediate appellate court for assistance. The Court then explained that Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court instructed that “when the PMWA substantially parallels the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), Pennsylvania courts look to federal courts’ interpretation of the parallel FLSA provision for guidance. Looking then to the FLSA’s overtime exemption, the Court agreed with the District Court that banquet service charges represent commissions. Therefore, the District Court appropriately awarded summary judgment to Hyatt.

If you have been denied overtime wages, the experienced Philadelphia employment lawyers at the Law Office Of Sidkoff, Pincus & Green will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. To schedule a consultation, call us at 215-574-0600 or contact us online today. With offices conveniently located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey.