Court of Appeals Issues Important Ruling in Favor of Employees in Overtime Lawsuits

The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) is the federal law that requires employers to pay overtime wages to many employees when they work more than 40 hours per week. The FLSA is a powerful tool for protecting employee rights because it allows all the employees of a company who have similar overtime claims to join their cases together in a single lawsuit. This lets the employees pool their resources and evidence together and present a stronger case. The FLSA permits employees to join an ongoing FLSA case simply by filing a written consent to join form with the Court.

Sometimes, a court will certify an overtime lawsuit as a collective action. That means the court will approve notices issued to employees who may have similar overtime claims so they can learn their rights and how to join the lawsuit. But, even if the case is not certified as a collective action, employees who believe they have similar overtime claims can join the case just by filing a simple consent to join form. Either way, employees with similar overtime claims do not have to file their own lawsuits – they can join together in a single case by completing and filing proper notification with the Court.

What does it mean for an employee to consent to join a case? Is that employee a full-fledged party to the lawsuit just like the lead employee who filed the lawsuit originally? Or does the employee who enters the case by signing a consent to join somehow have a lesser legal status?

On April 18, 2018, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal court of appeals covering Georgia, Alabama and Florida, answered the question directly for the first time. When an employee files a consent to join an ongoing overtime lawsuit, that employee becomes a full-fledged party to the case. These employees’ claims do not go into legal limbo if employers defeat an overtime lawsuit’s collective action status. Employees who joined the lawsuit can continue their cases with their claims fully intact and their rights fully protected, even if the court does not agree the case should be conditionally certified.

If you believe your employer has improperly denied you overtime wages, contact Legare Attwood & Wolfe. We would be honored to talk with you and see if we can help.

You can read the entire opinion here: http://media.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/files/201617484.pdf.