The Fort Lauderdale wage attorneys at the Mavrick Law Firm have extensive experience in the successful defense of clients who are sued for overtime and other wages.How the Mavrick Law Firm Represents Businesses by Defending Against Wage Claims
Mr. Mavrick defends wage cases by first carefully examining whether anything is owed to the former employee. If something is truly owed, Mr. Mavrick recommends paying what is owed. In some cases, former employees are owed nothing because they are exempt from the wage law requirements or their wages were properly calculated. In other cases, former employees have exaggerated what they are owed in order to get revenge against their former employer who terminated them. Such cases often are vigorously defended. The Fort Lauderdale wage attorneys at the Mavrick Law Firm have been successful in securing summary judgment and trial victories on behalf of employers, as wells as settling cases where appropriate. In a January 2016 victory in federal court, Mr. Mavrick represented a Florida corporation and its president who prevailed in a lawsuit claiming they owed overtime wages. In an August 2013 trial victory in Broward County, Florida, the Mavrick Law Firm successfully defended an employer being sued for overtime and other wages. The Mavrick Law Firm achieved a verdict that no wages were owed to the former employee. In a July 2012 federal court trial in Miami, Florida, the Mavrick Law Firm successfully defended an employer by obtaining judgment as a matter of law that nothing was owed to the former employee. The Mavrick Law Firm also settles many cases for businesses, for substantially less than the amount demanded by the former employee.
Mr. Mavrick has successfully defended many businesses that have been sued or threatened with a lawsuit over wages. South Florida is a hotbed of wage claims. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida (which covers Port St. Lucie County, Palm Beach County, Broward County, Miami-Dade County, and Monroe County (i.e., the Florida Keys) is often considered “ground zero” for overtime and minimum wage claims because more claims are filed in this federal court district than any other federal court district in the entire United States. South Florida has a confluence of many small and medium-sized businesses and a very active group of attorneys representing employees in bringing such claims. It is rather common for employers to be targeted with such lawsuits with either meritless or exaggerated demands for back wages plus attorney’s fees and costs. Mr. Mavrick has successfully advised and defended clients in a variety of industries, including engineering services firms, physicians and medical services firms, telecommunications firms, accountants, law firms, construction services firms, restaurants, bakeries, transportation and trucking companies, publishing and marketing firms, cleaning and janitorial businesses, window washing businesses, and technology companies, among others.
The Fort Lauderdale wage attorneys at the Mavrick Law Firm have also successfully represented employers when defending against attempts to get class certification of claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Such claims are referred to as “collective actions” which seek to group a large number of employees together to act as a group or “class” when suing the employer. Unlike traditional class actions under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which allow a representative plaintiff to represent an entire class of persons who may or may not know about the claim, “collective actions” operate only with consent of the potential class members. The federal courts have developed a large body of law articulating rules of what is and is not allowed in a collective action. Most importantly, there is not a “representative member” as in a typical class action. Instead, a collective action requires written consent of each member of the class to be filed with the court for that class member to be part of the case. Knowing this rule, plaintiffs’ attorneys often seek court permission to contact potential class members to advise them of the claim and ask them if they want to join the lawsuit against their current or former employer. Employers understandably want to minimize such class members because a larger class can increase the employer’s potential liability and the expense of legal defense. The Fort Lauderdale wage attorneys at the Mavrick Law Firm have been successful in defeating motions filed to contact class members to join the lawsuit in every case that the firm represented an employer (however, please be advised that past results do not guarantee future outcomes and past cases have particular factual and legal issues that are particular to those cases and are not necessarily going to be the same in future cases). For example, in August 2016, Mr. Mavrick successfully defended a national truck transportation company based in Miami, Florida in a class certification motion for a large group of current and former employees claiming overtime wages. Mr. Mavrick in June 2017 again successfully defended the same employer in yet another class certification motion and the Judge denied the plaintiff’s motion “with prejudice” so that it could not be brought again. In previous years, Mr. Mavrick has defeated other class notice motions under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Mr. Mavrick has also successfully defended South Florida businesses sued for overtime and minimum wage claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act when employees have tried to evade the applicable statute of limitation with claims of “equitable tolling.” While the normal statute of limitations for a federal overtime or minimum wage claim is either two years or up to three years (in cases of “intentional” or “reckless” violations of the law), some employees try to go back beyond three years by claiming there should be “equitable tolling” of the statute of limitations, asserting that the employer should not be allowed to defend on the grounds of the statute of limitations barring the wage claim as untimely because the employer is guilty of “misleading” the employee to not assert his or her claim for wages. The Mavrick Law Firm has defeated such claims of equitable tolling. In the federal courts in Florida, the legal standard for equitable tolling is more difficult to satisfy than in certain other federal jurisdiction in the United States. The Mavrick Law Firm has been able to defeat such claims due to its familiarity with the case law and how the Florida federal law is more restrictive than the law in other non-Florida jurisdictions cited by plaintiffs’ attorneys.
DEFENDING EMPLOYERS FROM CLAIMS DEMANDING OVERTIME AND MINIMUM WAGES FOR “EXEMPT” EMPLOYEES
Some “wage-hour” lawsuits deal with employees who are actually “exempt” from the law. Exemptions include managers, administrators (a specialized term which the FLSA and case law defines), professionals (such as doctors, lawyers, engineers, registered nurses), commissioned sales employees, among others that are part of a long list. There are many enumerated exemptions under the FLSA.
One of the surprisingly more common claims is former managers and assistant managers seeking overtime compensation from their former employers.
MANAGERS ARE GENERALLY EXEMPT FROM THE FLSA’S OVERTIME WAGE REQUIREMENTS
There are some cases where former managers seek overtime wages despite the existence of a specific FLSA exemption covering managers. Some former managers and assistant managers argue that they were misclassified as managers when they truly were mere lower level employees. The executive exemption applies to managers who meet the following criteria:
(1) They are compensated on a salary basis at a rate of at least $455/week;
(2) Their primary duty is management of the enterprise;
(3) They customarily and regularly direct the work of two or more other employees; and
(4) They have the authority to hire or fire other employees or their suggestions and recommendations as to the hiring, firing, advancement, promotion and any other change of status of other employees are given “particular weight” by the employer.
The central question regarding application of the executive exemption is whether the Plaintiff’s “primary duty” was “management.” One source of evidence of a bogus FLSA claim is what the former employee wrote on his or her resume about being a manager. See, for example, Jackson v. Advance Auto Parts, Inc., 362 F.Supp.2d 1323 (N.D. Ga. 2005) (granting summary judgment for employer on executive exemption for a claim brought by assistant manager-plaintiffs, in part because the plaintiffs described their employment as assistant managers as being “management” on their resumes). Courts also consider whether the plaintiff received more pay than individuals that he or she supervised. When this occurs courts view this as a key indicator that plaintiff was a manager. One federal court explained as follows:
Whether the Plaintiff received more pay than the individuals he supervised is still a criterion with respect to the manager exemption … Plaintiff was paid significantly more than his subordinates and was paid a bonus structure to award his effective management of the store (for all three positions), thereby indicating that Plaintiff was a manager when he worked each of those positions.
Brillas v. Bennett Auto Supply, Inc., 675 F.Supp.2d 1164, 1168 (S.D. Fla. 2009).
Numerous courts have held that when considering the question concerning whether management was an employee’s “primary duty,” a more useful question is whether the employee’s managerial duties constituted the primary value the employer placed on the employee. For example, one federal appellate court held that the plaintiff was a manager whose “principal value to [the employer] was directing the day-to-day operations of the park even though they performed a substantial amount of manual labor.”
For this reason, the time the employee spent performing non-exempt tasks does not necessarily determine whether an employee is exempt. While he Department of Labor’s regulations provided that an employee who spent more than 50 percent of his or her time performing managerial duties had management as a primary duty, that measure was only a good rule of thumb because an employee who spent less than half of his or her time on management could and often was still classified a “manager.” One federal case arising in the Southern District of Florida granted summary judgment and held that an employee who spent as much as 90% of his time on non-exempt work was nevertheless exempt under the executive exemption. Moore v. Tractor Supply Co., 352 F.Supp.2d 1268, 1272-1279 (S.D. Fla. 2004).
Assistant managers sometimes also seek to avoid the executive exemption, However, cases interpreting the applicable Department of Labor regulation have held that assistant managers are exempt when they performed some management tasks and their management duties were considered as the primary value to the employer.
Mr. Mavrick also has successfully defended businesses in claims for breach of employment contracts and for sales commissions allegedly owed. Florida law has a developed body of law regarding when commissions must be paid versus when an employer has no further liability for commissions after the employment relationship has ended.
The Mavrick Law Firm’s Fort Lauderdale wage attorneys have also successfully represented employers who are being audited by the United States Department of Labor into the payment of wages to their employees. Often the audits demand far more than what is owed, and legal assistance can frequently reduce the financial impact of the audit.
Mr. Mavrick successfully defended a group of businesses and their owner and a manager of the businesses from a large lawsuit brought by the United States Department of Labor that sought, among other things, to shut down the businesses for alleged repeated violations of federal wage laws governing payment of minimum and overtime wages. Mr. Mavrick vigorously defended the businesses, their owner, and their manager and was able to show that the businesses were being falsely accused of large-scale alleged violations that amounted to nothing more than false allegations of some disgruntled former employees.
The Mavrick Law Firm also helps bring many businesses into compliance with Federal and Florida employment laws concerning wages, including overtime wages and minimum wages. Businesses want to avoid the time and expense of lawsuits by complying with often technical obligations imposed by the law.
The following are wage law articles prepared by Peter Mavrick:
- Successor Corporations Could be Liable for Predecessors’ Federal Wage Law Violations
- Retaliation Claims Under The Federal Wage Law
- “Independent Contractor” vs. “Employee” Under the Fair Labor Standards Act
- Overtime Wage Law: Employees Working From Home
- Arbitration Agreements and the FLSA: The Effect of Fee-Splitting and Fee-Shifting Provisions
- Unpaid Overtime: The Retail Service Commissions Exception and Tipped Employees
- Recent Amendments to Federal and State Labor & Employment Laws
- Defending Against Employee Wage and Hour Claims
- Minimum Wage and Overtime: What Employers Should Know
- Paying Overtime: What Employers Need to Know
- Federal Appellate Court Overrules Employer’s Argument that Illegal Aliens were not Employees Under Overtime Wage Law
- Eleventh Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment for Shuttle Company’s Defense to Overtime Wage Case