Fair Labor Standards Act: A Plaintiff Must Plead Concrete Facts
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended (“FLSA”), establishes minimum wage, overtime pay and record keeping standards affecting employees in the private and government sectors. The FLSA requires that covered non-exempt employees receive overtime pay for any hours worked in excess of 40 per work week at one and one-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay. In 2014, lawsuits filed under the FLSA increased for the seventh consecutive year. Recently, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has ruled that an FLSA complaint should be dismissed if a plaintiff fails to allege sufficient specific facts to support a claim.
In August, 2014, in Davis v. Abington Memorial Hospital, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed the amount and type of facts that a plaintiff must plead in a complaint to state a claim under the FLSA. This decision will likely alter the litigation of FLSA suits.
In Davis, plaintiffs alleged that their employers implemented timekeeping and pay policies that failed to compensate them for all hours worked in violation of the FLSA. Specifically, plaintiffs alleged their employers did not compensate them for hours worked in excess of 40 per week during meal breaks, at training programs, and outside of their scheduled shifts. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on the basis that plaintiffs failed to allege sufficient facts to state a claim under the FLSA. The District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted the motion to dismiss, stating that plaintiffs “failed to allege a single specific instance in which a named plaintiff worked overtime and was not compensated for this time.”
The case was appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The Court of Appeals held that a plaintiff must sufficiently allege 40 hours of work in a given week as well as some uncompensated time in excess of 40 hours. Here, the Court noted that plaintiffs only alleged that they typically worked between 32 and 40 hours per work and frequently worked extra time. No plaintiff alleged that they did in fact work extra hours during a typical 40 hour work week. The Court was careful to note that an FLSA plaintiff need not identify the exact dates and times that he or she worked overtime. The Court provided that an allegation that a plaintiff “typically worked forty hours per week, worked extra hours during such a forty hour week, and was not compensated for extra hours beyond forty hours he or she worked during one or more of those forty-hour weeks, would suffice.”
The Davis decision has generated additional litigation within the Third Circuit since August. Not surprisingly, new questions regarding the pleading standard in FLSA actions have arisen. This decision, however, unquestionably strengthens an employer’s ability to seek a motion to dismiss a boilerplate FLSA claim.
Due to the technical nature of the FLSA and the interpretation of the statute and its regulations, employers are encouraged to consult with counsel on specific issues. You may contact Nancy Conrad (610.782.4909; firstname.lastname@example.org) or Stephanie A. Kobal (610.782.4942; email@example.com) or any member of our Labor and Employment Group for further assistance.