Employment Discrimination Blog

Monday, February 4, 2019

Employers Rejoice: Two FLSA Decisions Could Mean Good News for You

Can an employee who was voluntarily paid after a dispute recover for attorney’s fees and costs in an FLSA action?


Employment law is an ever-shifting field, requiring both employers and employees alike stay abreast of recent case developments.  Looking back at 2018, two federal court decisions stand out as providing important guidance on wage and hour issues under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  Both of these cases represent a positive outcome for employers.  Our Atlanta, Georgia employment law attorneys discuss the cases of Fast v. Cash Depot LTD. and Hirst v. SkyWest, Inc. below. 

Fast v. Cash Depot LTD.

In the case of Fast v. Cash Depot LTD., a federal court in Wisconsin held that the plaintiff could not recover any attorney’s fees or costs stemming from the FSLA action. The case involved a non-exempt employee, who filed a lawsuit claiming that his employer did not pay him the correct amount of overtime, thus violating the FSLA.  The employer retained an accounting firm to review the employment records and found the employee was underpaid, as were 63 other employees.  Each employee was tended a check for the sums owed.  

While the parties agreed the plaintiff had been paid all sums owed, the plaintiff sought $50,000 in attorney’s fees and costs. The defendant employer sought dismissal of the action, stating that the employee was not a prevailing party as he had been paid voluntarily, and thus no attorney’s fees were owed.  The court agreed.  The court held that per the FLSA, an employee is only a prevailing party if he or she obtains a judgment or court approved settlement, which would then open the door for seeking attorney’s fees.  This case is not nationally binding, but its outcome should be considered by employers as offering one potential means for resolving a wage dispute without incurring additional costs.

Hirst v. SkyWest, Inc.

In the case of Hirst v. SkyWest, Inc., flight attendants filed a FLSA minimum wage claim, urging that they were not paid for certain duties performed during the day, such as time between clearing security at the airport and takeoff.  Cases were filed in California and Illinois, but a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ordered dismissal of the claims. The court held that the flight attendants could not demonstrate a single work week in which the airlines had been paid less than the federal minimum wage for their hours worked.  The flight attendants urged that the court should consider instead their “pairing” or time out and back from their base airport, but the court declined to hear this notion.  It found that other circuits have uniformly adopted the workweek measure.  Employers can take note and make sure their employees are all paid at least the minimum wage on a weekly basis. 

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