Category: Wage and Hour Disputes


Philadelphia Wage and Hour Lawyers: Truck Drivers FLSA Exception

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Employer of Truck Drivers Who Transported Water to Hydraulic Fracking Sites Does Not Qualify for FLSA Exception Under MCA

In Mazzarella v. Fast Rig Support, LLC, a group of truck drivers who transported water to and from hydraulic fracking sites brought suit against their employer to recover unpaid overtime wages. No. 15-3116, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 9687 (3d Cir. May 23, 2016). The truck drivers asserted that their employer violated the FLSA because they often worked more than 40 hours per week but were only paid overtime when they worked over 45 hours in a week. In response to the truck drivers’ claims for unpaid overtime, the employer argued that they were exempt from the FLSA under the Motor Carrier Act. Under the Motor Carrier Act, employers are exempt from the FLSA if they are engaged in transportation between “a State and a place in another State.” 49 U.S.C. § 13501.

The District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and held that the employer had not shown the water and drivers were engaged in a “continuous stream of interstate travel” because the water transported involved in the fracking process becomes contaminated and “substantially modified”, resulting in “two separate commercial transactions,” one “before the water becomes tainted” and one after the fracking process is complete. The Third Circuit affirmed the ruling of the District Court. The Court stated that the employer did not present sufficient evidence that the truck drivers were involved in a “continuity of movement in interstate commerce.”

For more information, call our Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green at 215-574-0600 or contact us online.

 

Philadelphia Business Lawyers: Arbitration Decision

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Arbitration Decision from 7th Circuit Leaves Split Among Appellate Courts

In a recent decision, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a health care software company was in violation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) when it required its employees to waive their rights to pursue wage-and-hour claims in class actions. In the case, Lewis v. Epic Systems Corp., Lewis brought a claim in federal court against his employer, Epic Systems, asserting they had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by depriving him and a few fellow employees of overtime pay. No. 15-2997, 2016 WL 3029464 (7th Cir. May 26, 2016). Epic Systems moved to dismiss the claim and compel individual arbitration, in light of an arbitration clause requiring groups of employees to bring any wage-and-hour claims against the company only through individual arbitration and prohibiting collective arbitration or class action. Id.  Lewis claimed the arbitration clause was unenforceable because it violated Section 7 of the NLRA, which states that “employees shall have the right to… engage in…concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” 29 U.S.C. § 157. Epic Systems contended that the clause was enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). Id. Both the district court and the 7th Circuit agreed with Lewis. Id.

This decision directly opposes a decision from the 5th Circuit, leaving a split among the appellate courts and increasing the possibility that the Supreme Court will take up the issue. In 2013, the 5th Circuit overturned a National Labor Relations Board decision in D.R. Horton, Inc. v. N.L.R.B., and allowed employers to have these mandatory individual arbitration agreements under the FAA. 737 F.3d 344 (5th Cir. 2013). This split in decisions will leave a lot of uncertainty, and possibly more lawsuits, for employers not in those circuits who have or want to enforce arbitration agreements and class-action waivers.

For more information, call our Philadelphia business lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green at 215-574-0600 or contact us online.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers: FLSA Salary Threshold Raised

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Beginning December 1, 2016, approximately 4 million Americans will qualify for overtime pay under new rules from the U.S. Department of Labor under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Currently, the “white collar” exemption under FLSA for overtime pay requires that employees: (1) be paid on a salary basis, receiving a predetermined and fixed salary that is not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of work performed (“salary basis test”); (2) be paid more than a specified salary threshold of $23,660, or $455 a week (“salary level test”); and (3) primarily perform certain executive, administrative, or professional duties as specified in DOL regulations (“duties test”). Now, rule changes influenced by the Obama administration are altering part (2) to increase the salary threshold to $47,476 or $913 a week, but are leaving parts (1) and (3) undisturbed.

The threshold will be automatically updated every three years to keep salaries in line with inflation. Starting in 2020, the threshold will be increased to match the 40th percentile of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census area, which in this case is currently the South. The Department of Labor estimates that in 2020, the salary threshold will increase to approximately $51,000 a year.

For more information, call our Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green at 215-574-0600 or contact us online.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers: Richmond Unpaid Overtime Lawsuit

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Recently, 134 employees at Richmond, Virginia’s Department of Social Services have alleged that they were improperly denied overtime wages during the three years prior to June 2015. Richmond’s Mayor, Dwight C. Jones has asked the City Council to approve a $2.7 million settlement to resolve the lawsuit.

In their lawsuit, the government employees assert that they regularly worked more than 40 hours a week without overtime pay that they were entitled to receive under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Allegedly, they had excessive caseloads that required them to work during lunch, and also at home in the evenings and on weekends. They maintain that their managers told them that they needed to do whatever it took to get their jobs done. Their salaried positions were supposed to be scheduled for only 40 hours per week.

Even if the Richmond City Council approves the settlement, it is not clear how much money each of the effected employees would receive. As with most unpaid overtime lawsuits, some of the money would cover back wages, and some would cover penalties or damages, but it is not clear at this time how the award would be allocated.

Other similar lawsuits have plagued municipalities in the Richmond area. In 2012, Henrico County paid out $3.5 million to police officers who alleged that the county manipulated the way hours were recorded to avoid having to pay overtime. And in 2011, Richmond paid its own Police Department seven million dollars in a lawsuit over unpaid overtime.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green Pursue Maximum Compensation for Employees Denied Overtime Pay

Unfortunately, unpaid overtime lawsuits are very common. Often, employers will manipulate time sheets or work schedules in order to avoid paying employees the time-and-a-half wages they are rightfully owed. If you suspect that your employer has wrongfully denied you overtime pay, Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green can help. To schedule a consultation, call us at 215-574-0600 or contact us online today. With offices located in Philadelphia, we fight for workers throughout Pennsylvania and South Jersey.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers: Increased Overtime Eligibility

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Yesterday, the Obama administration announced it was extending eligibility for millions more employees to receive overtime pay. This has been in an effort to improve the treatment of workers that has garnered a lot of criticism from several business groups. The new regulation, which is to be issued by the Labor Department today, states that those workers who earn a salary less than $47,476 a year are required to receive time-and-a-half of overtime every time they work more than 40 hours in a given week. In 2004, a regulation had been set establishing the threshold at $23,660.

There are many theories on how these new regulations will work out as they come into effect on December 1, 2016. Some believe many workers will receive more pay when they work overtime, but project overtime will lessen. Others believe workers will be given salary increases that are above the cutoff so they will not have to be paid overtime. A third theory is that companies will hire more employees so current employees do not have to work overtime and be paid as such.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has said the new rules touch a core issue for President Obama: having the middle class treated fairly. Additionally, the new rule protects those who financially fall below what is considered middle class. Biden also noted that more than 60 percent of workers were eligible for overtime pay in 1975, whereas today, only seven percent are eligible for the same benefits.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green Advocate on Behalf of Workers Denied Overtime Pay

If you qualify for overtime pay but have been denied the time-and-a-half you are owed, our team of Philadelphia employment lawyers will help you file a wage and hour dispute claim. At Sidkoff, Pincus & Green, we are dedicated to fighting for the rights and interests of workers and can help seek compensation and damages for those who are owed. Contact us online or call 215-574-0100 today to find out how we can help. With offices in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and South Jersey.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers: Ruling in Tyson Foods Overtime Case

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The United States Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of a group of pork processing plant workers, who argued that they were entitled to overtime wages for time spent “donning and doffing” (changing in and out of soiled work clothes). The Court held that statistical evidence could be used to determine overtime wages, because the employer failed to keep proper records. Some have speculated that this will lead to an uptick in litigation because plaintiffs in other class actions may now be able to use statistical evidence to support their cases.

The plaintiffs in this case were 3,344 workers employed in the kill, cut and retrim departments of a Storm Lake, Iowa pork processing plant owned by one of America’s largest meat producers, Tyson Foods, Inc. The employees specifically alleged that Tyson violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Iowa Wage Payment Collection Law. The workers filed their suit in an Iowa Federal District Court in 2007. The Court certified the class action the following year.

Details of the Trial

At trial, the plaintiffs submitted a study performed by Kenneth Mericle, an industrial relations expert. Mericle had examined how long it took employees to don and doff their work clothes. After examining 744 videotape recordings, Mericle concluded that it took the cut and retrim workers approximately 18 minutes per day to don and doff, while the kill employees spent just over 21 minutes a day changing clothes. After reviewing this evidence, the jury awarded the workers $2.9 million in wages.

Tyson appealed the ruling, but the Supreme Court affirmed. The Court found that because Tyson neglected to keep proper records, the representative evidence of the videotapes could be relied upon to estimate the hours that plaintiff employees had actually worked. Although some have expressed concern that allowing class action plaintiffs to rely on representative evidence will overburden the courts, the court limited its ruling to the facts and circumstances presented in this case alone. If future class action plaintiffs wish to rely on representative evidence, they will have to demonstrate that use of statistical methods is fair in their particular circumstance.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus and Green Pursue Compensation for Workers Denied Overtime Pay

Federal and state laws require most employers to pay one and one half times the regular rate (“time and a half”) for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. In Pennsylvania, workers may collect unpaid overtime up to three years after the date the pay was earned.

If you have been denied overtime wages, the experienced Philadelphia employment lawyers at 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.

Philadelphia Class Action Lawyers: SCOTUS Denies Walmart Appeal

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In a four-1 ruling earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition to review a 2006 jury decision in a class action, wage-and-hour lawsuit filed on behalf of Walmart employees in Pennsylvania.

In 2006, plaintiffs in Braun v. Wal-Mart Stores and Hummel v. Wal-Mart Stores were awarded $187.6 million in damages for wage-and-hour violations based on claims that the retail giant failed to properly pay employees for missed rest breaks and off-the-clock work. Walmart sought to have the decision overturned by the Supreme Court, arguing that the plaintiffs had not presented sufficient proof of class-wide commonality, only proof of individual claims. Walmart also argued that the determination of liability and damages in the case represented a “trial by formula” that had been disapproved by earlier Supreme Court decisions.

According to the majority opinion, however, liability in this case was not determined by a formula, but by evidence of breach of contract and wage-and-hour violations which were established by Walmart’s employment policies, business records and internal audits. Interest accrued since 2006 brings the current class action award to approximately $244 million.

Philadelphia class action lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green have been successfully representing plaintiffs in employment lawsuits for over 50 years. For more information about overtime violation claims and employment law in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, call 215-574-0600 or contact us online.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers: Class-Action Settlement for Wage Underpayment

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On February 11, 2016 the Middle District of Pennsylvania approved a $320,000 class action settlement against meat packer, Vantage Foods Inc. Workers at the meat packaging plant brought suit against their employer for not paying workers for all of the tasks they performed. More Precisely, the complaint alleged that employees were not paid for time spent preparing for their shifts nor for time spent after their shifts when they were required to clean off, remove their gear, and place it in storage. The suit was brought under the Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA), which regulates employment standards, including minimum wages and overtime pay.

Vantage alleged that employees were being sufficiently compensated for any time it took to do those tasks, even though the company eventually agreed to settle. In settling the case, Vantage denied committing any employment law violations or wrongdoing with the class-action suit. The workers will receive additional pay calculated in minutes, over a period of almost 2 years.

For more information, call Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green at 215-574-0600 or contact us online.

Philadelphia Overtime Lawyer: Recent Reports Highlights “Hidden” Problem of Wage Theft

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A recent report from Sheller Center for Social Justice in Pennsylvania asserts that employers in the state are participating in large-scale wage-theft practices. These practices occur in the form of minimum-wage violations, unpaid overtime, stolen tips, illegal pay deductions and other tactics. The report claims an estimated 128,576 workers experience a minimum wage violation, 105,458 experience an overtime violation and 83,344 experience an off-the-clock violation every week.

Wage theft takes numerous forms in Pennsylvania. Some employers illegally deduct wages from their employees’ paycheck to cover the cost of uniforms, gas and other supplies necessary to perform the job, or make workers pay for such things out of pocket. Another major form of wage violation in PA is employers not paying workers the overtime they are due. In some cases, employers deliberately mislead employees about their right to overtime compensation. Employer tactics to evade paying overtime include drafting confusing employment policies and misclassifying workers as ‘independent contractors” who are not protect by overtime laws.

Currently, Community Legal Services is working with the city council in Philadelphia that would increase penalties and prevent businesses from getting business licensees if they commit wage theft.

For more information, call a Philadelphia overtime lawyer at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green at 215-574-0600 or contact us online.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers: Jiffy Lube Cheats Employees out of Fair Pay

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A former Jiffy Lube assistant manager (“Plaintiff”) filed a class action suit against a franchise of the auto repair shop in Pennsylvania federal court claiming that policies such as requiring workers to clock out while at work violate state and federal wage and hour laws. The Complaint alleges that Jiffy Lube violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and Pennsylvania wage laws by cheating customer service technicians and assistant managers of proper minimum wage and overtime pay. The Complaint says, “the defendants’ policy and practice of forcing its employees to work off the clock is firmly embedded within its culture and specifically referenced in its written operating procedures.”

Customer service technicians and assistant managers are responsible for working on vehicles, including providing oil changes, brake, tire and cooling system services. Those duties aren’t exempt from minimum wage or overtime pay under the FLSA and the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Age.  Despite this, Jiffy Lube allegedly routinely denied those employees pay through by editing workers’ time entries to reduce or remove hours. The auto repair shop also ordered employees to clock out when they weren’t helping customers during scheduled shifts, even though they had to remain at the store. Plaintiff alleges that Jiffy Lube told him that it wasn’t company policy to pay employees for all hours actually worked. He pointed to the company’s regional manager conference in winter 2015, where the Vice President allegedly stated that there was no reason to pay employees for all hours worked if there were no cars at the shop.

Plaintiff is bringing the suit as a collective action under the FLSA and as a class action under the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law and the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act.

For more information or to discuss a wage and hour issue under the FLSA, call Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green at 215-574-0600 or contact us online.