Articles Tagged with fair labor standards act

After a court ordered Tyson Foods to pay $5.8 million to workers in overtime pay in a class action suit, the food giant appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the ruling. Based on a recent hour-long argument session, say experienced court-watchers, the justices don’t appear to be receptive to Tyson’s claims that the lower court used an illegal method to determine damages. The company says the method in question, known as statistical averages, implies that all member of the group of 3,300 workers are identical to average employees.

Tyson contends the statistical average method mirrors the “trial by formula” reasoning that formed the basis of the high court’s rejection of an earlier major class action case. In that lawsuit, workers sued Walmart for denying them equal pay and promotion opportunities. The rejection of the case stemmed from the fact that the unfair treatment affected some workers more than others. In other words, their employment injuries weren’t uniform. While Tyson hopes the precedent this ruling set will lead to a Supreme Court victory, the justices appeared skeptical of the argument.

Both business advocates and consumer advocates are closely watching this case and awaiting the ruling. Those on the business side desire a Tyson victory, as it will put the brakes on what they feel are frivolous class action lawsuits. Conversely, consumer and worker advocates want a Tyson defeat, because they contend group claims hold companies accountable.

The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit redefined Fair Labor Standards Act exemptions for home healthcare workers, narrowing exempt workers to those who directly work for the individual or for the family as opposed to a third party, such as a home care or temporary agency.

This decision carries several major implications for workers, direct employers and home care or temporary agencies. These include:

1.    Home care or temporary agencies should review their practices as soon as possible to ensure that they are following the new laws.

The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has sent a clear message to the employers of home-healthcare workers and redefined exempt employees as only those who are directly hired by the person or the person’s family and not an outside agency.

This ruling updated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) definition that groups all companionship or domestic service workers together without differentiating between them. It means that even live-in caretakers will receive overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours per week. The outside agency must pay their employees at least minimum wage plus overtime.

The Court considered a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Long Island Care at Home, Ltd. v. Coke, that gave the Department of Labor the authority to interpret the companionship exemption when it implemented those standards. The DOL held that third-party workers were exempt, but Coke, a companionship worker, challenged that exemption and asked for minimum wage and overtime. Although the DOL upheld the exemption, the case set precedent in determining how the definition was applied. Thus, the Supreme Court agreed that the DOL had the authority to decide which workers were included and who was exempt in accordance with FLSA laws.

The National Labor Relation’s Board decision regarding joint-employer status for workers formerly not classified as employees in the case of Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc. includes numerous implications for employment law. Here are 7 potentially important ones:

1.    The Wage and Hour Division, and by extension, the FLSA, will likely look to this decision to expand who they charge in related employment violations.

2.    In the past, many employers have tried to distance themselves from workers, thus avoiding an employer-employee relationship and limiting overhead by hiring employees through a secondary agency. This ruling will curtail those behaviors.

On Friday, Jan. 30, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, New York heard arguments addressing the legality of unpaid internship programs. The city expects to hear the court’s decision later this year. It seems inevitable that the pending decision will set a precedent for future internship organization that could reverberate across the state and possible the nation.

The suit has to do with two prior cases brought against companies by former interns. One case involved allegations against Fox Searchlight Pictures; the other involved allegations against the publishing behemoth Hearst Corporation, owner of magazines like Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire. The Fox interns won their case; the Hearst interns lost theirs.

Both cases concern a critical 1947 Supreme Court ruling that once dictated criteria for unpaid railroad training. The judge in the Fox case used the criteria as a strict standard, while the judge in the Hearst case saw the criteria as a broad set of best-practice guidelines. The appeals court will determine which ruling is lawful.