By Peter T. Mavrick
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in a recent case confirmed that under federal law “illegal aliens,” i.e., undocumented workers, are covered employees under the federal overtime and minimum wage law called the Fair Labor Standards Act or “FLSA” for short. Galdames v. N & D Investment Corp., 2011 U.S.App.LEXIS 12705 (11th Cir. June 23, 2011). The court followed precedent in Patel v. Quality Inn South, 846 F.2d 700, 706 (11th Cir. 1988), “that undocumented workers are ‘employees’ within the meaning of the FLSA.” After passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, illegal aliens are covered “employees” under the FLSA and could sue for unpaid wages.
The appellate court also discussed two other important matters.
First, although the defendant had admitted in its answer that its gross annual revenue exceeds $500,000, which is the statutory threshold for FLSA enterprise coverage, the defendant later tried to contest the trial court’s finding that the $500,000 threshold had been met. The appellate court concluded that once the defendant made the admission, it was bound, citing Cooper v. Meridian Yachts, Ltd., 575 F.3d 1151, 177-78 (11th Cir. 2009) (“[T]he general rule [is] that a party is bound by admissions in his pleadings. Indeed, facts judicially admitted are facts established not only beyond the need of evidence to prove them, but beyond the power of evidence to controvert them”). Apparently the defendant recognized, after making its admission in its answer to the complaint, that it made a mistake in its calculation and the $500,000 threshold had not been satisfied. The lesson is admit nothing unless you are certain in the admission. Never help the plaintiff make the case, especially when the employer’s admission contradicts the truth and causes the employer to lose the case.
Second, the appellate court allowed the plaintiff to recover a large award of attorney’s fees and costs, in the amount of $112,495. The FLSA allows a prevailing plaintiff to recover its fees and costs. The critical lesson here is that the employer’s litigation exposure must be evaluated early in the case, and measures must be taken either to reach an early settlement or alternatively prevail in the case so that the employer pays nothing.
Attorney Peter Mavrick represents management and business owners in employment and labor law. Mr. Mavrick has successfully represented many businesses in court as well as in responding to threatened legal action. This article is intended for information purposes only and is not legal advice. This article is not a substitute for legal advice tailored to a particular client’s situation. Peter T. Mavrick can be reached at: Website: www.mavricklaw.com; Telephone: 954-564-2246; Address: 1620 West Oakland Park Boulevard, Suite 300, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.