Overtime Claim Defense
FairLaw Firm has significant experience in defending companies and their owners in lawsuits involving the alleged failure to properly pay overtime wages. Our firm frequently appears in court to defend against false or excessive claims for unpaid or underpaid overtime wages by current and former employees.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) is a federal law that requires certain employees to receive overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a workweek. Overtime is working more than 40 hours in a week. Therefore, paying an employee for 80 hours and no overtime would violate the FLSA if the employee worked 42 hours the first week and 38 hours the second week.
No warnings. The FLSA does not require that you receive any notice or warning before being sued, and because the FLSA is a federal law, you could be sued in either a Florida state court or a federal court.
Damages. The FLSA allows an employee to sue an employer for the overtime wages that should have been paid. Plus, the FLSA also allows an employee to claim an equal amount (double damages) as “liquidated damages” unless you as the employer can show that you had good faith and reasonable explanation for not timely paying these overtime wages.
Attorneys’ Fees. The FLSA requires (by including the term “shall”) a Court to award an employee who wins a case for overtime wages their attorneys’ fees and costs. This means that lawyers are rewarded for filing lawsuits to recover overtime wages. As long as the employee recovers overtime wages, the employees’ attorney is going to get paid. FLSA overtime lawsuits can get extremely expensive for this reason, because you are not only responsible for paying any overtime wages, plus liquidated damages, but you also are going to have to pay the employee’s attorney. Unfortunately, it is very rare that you would be able to recover your attorneys’ fees from the employee if you win the case, and you cannot normally sue the employee just for suing you.
Independent Contractors. The FLSA only applies to employees; it does not apply to independent contractors. The FLSA uses what has been called the broadest definition of employee around. Paying someone as an independent contractor, paying a one-person company as an independent contractor, and having someone sign an agreement that they are independent contractor does not decide whether someone is or is not an independent contractor or an employee.
What did you receive?
Companies often call our office after receiving one of three things:
Demand Letter from a lawyer- if you received a demand letter sent by a lawyer for a current or former worker, you have several options: you could ignore it, you could pay the amount demanded, or you could allow us to respond to the letter. You make the decisions about whether, when, and how to respond to that letter. We will use our experience to assist you in formulating that response, but you will ultimately approve the final version of our response before it goes out.
Lawsuit (Summons and Complaint) from a process server – if you received a lawsuit, you have about 3 weeks to hire a lawyer who can file a response to it in the appropriate court (20 days in a Florida state court or 21 days in federal court). The failure to have a lawyer file a timely response to a lawsuit can result in the Court deciding that you cannot present any defenses to the claim(s) alleged by entering a default. Upon hiring FairLaw Firm, we will dive into the Court’s file to see what has happened and then defend the case.
Letter from a lawyer you don’t recognize – if you received a letter from a lawyer that talks about how your company was sued and that includes a case number, that’s because there are a number of law firms who send solicitation letters to defendants in FLSA overtime wage lawsuits. These lawyers monitor the court filings and send the same letter to every company that is sued for an alleged overtime wage claim. Know that you know you’re being sued (before you are actually served with the lawsuit), do yourself a favor and take the time to research who you want to represent you and your company.
Who can be a defendant in an overtime lawsuit?
The FLSA uses a broad definition of the term “employer” to include not only a company but also individuals. This means that owners, officers, directors, and even managers of a company can be named as defendants – and equally responsible as the company itself – for paying the employee.
Is every company is required to pay overtime wages?
No. The FLSA does not apply to require that every company pay its employees overtime wages. Companies have to earn at least $500,000 in gross income (before expenses) and have to engage in “interstate commerce” in order to be required to pay overtime under the FLSA.
What do we do?
After making sure that we do not have a conflict with representing your company, FairLaw Firm will analyze the materials you received to determine what you received and to recommend a course of action. We will ask for you to provide us with the entire personnel file, all time and pay records, all agreements, and all other necessary documents so we can analyze the situation. If you have text, WhatsApp, or other messages, we’ll review them if they deal with the type of work performed, when it was performed, or where it was performed. We will then have a candid discussion with you about the good and the bad. You will understand the worst case scenario, the best case scenario, and the range of probable results. With that information, we can discuss how we proceed to represent you. We use our experience to devise a defense strategy that works for you.
Who will decide your case?
You and the person making the claim get to decide the case until it’s time for a judge or a jury to decide. You will have plenty of opportunities to try and settle the claim before it is time for a judge to decide and then before a jury decides. Many of the federal District Judges in South Florida require overtime wage claims to go to a settlement conference before a United States Magistrate Judge. The settlement conference will be an opportunity to try and settle the case, as the lawyers are allowed to speak directly to the other side, and then the parties decide the outcome – if they settle or not – with the Magistrate Judge assisting in that process. All cases in South Florida courts are required to go through a mediation, which is a similar process where the parties get together with their lawyers and a neutral third party to try and settle their case.
How much will this cost ?
FairLaw Firm defends clients in overtime cases on an hourly basis. Our clients pay the firm a retainer, part of which is non-refundable and part of which is non-refundable. We keep track of the time that we spend on your case and then send you bills detailing what we did, the time we billed for doing the work, and how much each task cost. The cost of defense depends on a lot of factors, but the biggest factor is how much time we are required to spend on your case. Some cases are resolved quickly and do not cost a lot to defend, while other cases require us to spend a significant amount of time due to the amount being claimed and the issues involved.