Articles Posted in Overtime

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Court recently ruled that an employee who follows his supervisor’s instruction to falsely report that he did not work any overtime hours still can pursue an overtime claim. It reversed a decision from the Western District of New York, which had dismissed the claim because it did not believe the employee could prove how many hours of overtime he had worked.

Overtime Businessman.jpgGreg Kuebel was a Retail Specialist for Black & Decker (U.S.) Inc. He filed class action lawsuit against Black & Decker, claiming the company’s overtime pay practices violate the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the New York Labor Law (NYLL). Specifically, Mr. Kuebel claims Black & Decker violated the law by failing to pay him for the overtime hours he worked but did not record on his timesheet — in other words, his “off-the-clock” overtime hours.

Black & Decker’s official policy required Retail Specialists to accurately record their hours on timesheets that they submit to their managers. There was no official Black & Decker policy which prohibited Retail Specialists from working, recording, or being paid for overtime. However, Black & Decker expected its Retail Specialists to finish their work in a 40-hour work week.

Mr. Kuebel alleges it was impossible to finish all of his work in 40 hours per week, and as a result often worked overtime. However, he did not list any overtime on his timesheets, and therefore was not paid for his overtime hours. Mr. Kuebel explained that he falsified his timesheets because his supervisors instructed him not to record more than 40 hours of work per week because the company could not afford overtime. Mr. Kuebel testified that to the best of his memory he worked more than 40 hours almost every week, and averaged between 1 to 5 hours of overtime per week. After Mr. Kuebel told his supervisor that he had been falsifying his timesheets, Black & Decker fired him for poor performance, dishonesty, and falsification of company records.

In Kuebel v. Black & Decker Inc., the Court explained that to prove an overtime case under the FLSA, an employee has to prove he was not properly paid for working more than 40 hours in a work week, and his employer either actually knew it or should have known about it under the circumstances. To prove the amount of overtime pay to which he is entitled, an employee needs enough evidence to show the amount and extent of the overtime he worked. However, he does not have to prove the amount of overtime he worked with definiteness, and can prove his overtime hours through an inference. Accordingly, the Court ruled that when a company’s time records are inaccurate or inadequate, the solution is not to penalize the employee by denying him any legal recovery.

To summarize, an employee can win an overtime case if (1) he proves he actually worked overtime and was not properly paid for it, and (2) he has enough evidence to show how much overtime he worked through a reasonable inference. An employee can meet this burden through estimates based on his own recollection. This can be true even when the employee admittedly falsified his own timesheets, at least where the employee’s falsification was based on an instruction from a manager or supervisor. That is because it is the employer’s duty to maintain accurate time records for its employees, and employers cannot delegate that duty to their employee. Once an employer knows or has reason to know an employee is working overtime, it cannot deny compensation simply because the employee failed to properly record or claim his overtime hours.

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Champ Mascot.jpgLast Wednesday, a mascot who worked for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees minor league team filed a federal lawsuit claiming the team violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and state law because it failed to pay him for his overtime hours. Specifically, Brian Bonnor’s lawsuit alleges the team improperly designated him as a “manager” to avoid paying him time-and-a-half when he worked more than 40 hours in a week.

Specifically, Mr. Bonnor, who was laid off by the New York Yankees’ AAA affiliate in January, alleges he was paid a salary of $22,000 per year to dress up as the team’s mascot, Champ, and make appearances at games and other events. However, his lawsuit claims he had no supervisory or managerial job duties. He also claims he sometimes worked 80-hour weeks, but the team never paid him for his overtime. The team denies it violated the law.

The FLSA is a federal wage and hour law. It requires employers to pay most employees time-and-a-half for their overtime hours unless they fall into specifically defined categories, including certain “executive,” “administrative,” and “professional” employees. Companies that violate the FLSA can be required to pay the employee not only for their unpaid overtime, but if the violation is “willful” they also can be required to pay double damages (called “liquidated damages”). An employee who wins a case under the FLSA also can recover his attorney’s fees and litigation costs.

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Starting on October 26, 2009, employers in New York State must give newly hired employees written notice of their regular hourly pay rate. For employees who are entitled to receive overtime pay, employers also must state their overtime rate. Employers also need to obtain written confirmation from new employees, confirming they received the required information.

These new requirements are an amendment to New York Labor Law Section 195(1). Their purpose is to “allow workers to determine whether their paychecks properly reflect the hourly wage rates their employers agreed to at the time of hiring, including the overtime rate.” They are a response to the fact that many employees are only told their annual or weekly salary when they are hired, which makes it difficult to determine their hourly and overtime pay rates. The new law also should help minimize any confusion about whether employees are entitled to receive overtime pay, by requiring employers to address the issue up front.

If you work in New York or New Jersey and believe your employer violated your right to receive overtime pay, or another one of your rights as an employee, you should consider contacting an experienced employment lawyer.

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