The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) mandates that all employees receive overtime and minimum wage unless very narrow exemptions apply to their positions. After an employee initiates an overtime lawsuit, other employees who have similar job duties (or work in the same position) paid pursuant similar pay provisions may join the unpaid wage or overtime lawsuit by “opting” in to the case.
A. Overtime Lawsuit: Collective Actions Under the FLSA
Under the FLSA, employees may bring “collective action” overtime lawsuits against their employers on behalf of themselves and other “similarly situated” employees. Other employees may “opt in” to a overtime lawsuit to pursue their claims by filing a consent form in a pending federal action.
A collective action differs from a “class action.” In a typical class action, employees who don’t want to involve themselves in a lawsuit have to “opt out” by affirmatively telling the court they don’t want to be a plaintiff in the underlying suit. Congress has made it difficult to bring traditional class actions by mandating that employees meet a four-part test to move forward as group, including proof that all the employees claims involve common issues of law and fact, and that the claims of the employees are typical of the group.
In a FLSA collective action overtime lawsuit, employees have a much lower hurdle; They only need to show “similarly situated” employees exist that are willing to join an overtime lawsuit lawsuit. This is a much easier standard to meet than the standards that apply to class actions.
B. Overtime Lawsuit: Typical Legal Issues Litigated
Under the FLSA, employees have the right to bring an overtime lawsuit over many issues, including this non-exhaustive list of potential claims in overtime lawsuits:
- Failure to pay overtime
- Failure to pay minimum wage
- Failure to pay tips
- Misclassification of employees as exempt under exemptions including the executive, administrative, professional, computer employee, outside sales, and Motor Carrier Act exemptions
- Misclassification of employees as independent contractors
- Failure to pay employees for all hours worked by not paying for travel time, on-call time, or time spent putting on and taking off protective gear
- Requiring employees to work off the clock to avoid minimum wage and overtime payments
More information can be found about the Fair Labor Standards Act at the Department of Labor’s helpful website found here.
C. Overtime Lawsuit: Statute of Limitations
WARNING: Employees in federal overtime lawsuits can only recover wages dating three years back from the date they file their consent in federal court to join an unpaid overtime lawsuit. Employees that do not timely file their consent in a federal wage action may lose money each and every day they fail to file their consent in federal court to join a federal overtime action.