Federal Employment Law Update- Picking off the FLSA case

Good afternoon all, and welcome to your federal employment law update.  For what today’s case lacks in juicy facts, it makes up for in practical legal impact.  In Dionne v. Floormasters Enterprises, Inc., 2011 WL 3189770 (11th Cir. July 28, 2011), the Eleventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of a wage and hour collective action claim brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act after Defendant tendered the full amount claimed for by the class representative of the Plaintiff class.  Defendant then filed a motion in the lower court requesting dismissal of the case as moot.   The lower court agreed, dismissing the case without awarded attorney’s fees to Plaintiff due to the lack of a “judgment” as required by the statute.  The Eleventh Circuit agreed after doing an analysis on the FLSA’s language. 

Sounds like no big deal, right?  Well, this can have a potentially huge impact on FLSA cases and how they are litigated.  The FLSA is a statute aimed at protecting certain workers from missing out on overtime pay and, to a lesser extent, minimum wage violations.  A prevailing Plaintiff is entitled to recover their attorney’s fees.  In the typical case, the actual injury to the Plaintiff pales in comparison to the amount of fees their attorney racks up.  For instance, a typical FLSA case occurs when a factory worker is not compensated for time off the clock spent putting on their uniform, something that may take something like 2-3 minutes per day.  Add these violations up over a year and they may be out like $300. 

The attorneys’ fees drive the cases, and so unsurprisingly the attorneys are more invested than their clients.  In fact, most FLSA cases are initiated through attorneys investigating an employer rather than a normal client seeking out counsel believing they are the victim of injustice.  In Dionne, the defendant dealt a kill shot right off the bat by paying the relatively nominal damage claim ($3,000).  I am frankly surprised the courts allowed it but hopefully it reduces the amount of these claims, as they make up a substantial percentage of the cases on federal court dockets, particularly in Florida.

DISCLAIMER:  This blog is written for entertainment purposes only and does NOT create an attorney-client relationship between the author and its readers. 

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