personal injury - employment law - commercial litigation
Overtime Laws Latest News:
In a decision last month, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a final judgment in favor of an employee and against the employer in a Fair Labor Standards Act claim seeking unpaid overtime, liquidated damages and attorneys’ fees. The employer had argued that the overtime claim was rendered moot when the employer tendered to the employee’s attorney the amount of the employee’s claimed damages or, alternatively when the employee accepted and cashed the check as a complete and final settlement. The employer claimed that the trial court erred when it awarded $61,810.44 in prevailing party attorneys’ fees. The amount of unpaid wages was $1,800.
As those of you who regularly read my newsletter, the Fair Labor Standards Act provides that a prevailing employee may recover his or her reasonable attorneys’ fees in prosecuting the claim. You also know that the Act does not provide for an award of attorneys’ fees to the employer should the employer prevail. The Act also provides for an award of liquidated damages in the same amount as the total unpaid wages. Thus, the employee was awarded $1,800 in unpaid wages, $1,800 in liquidated damages and $61,810.44 in attorneys’ fees. The Act also provides that an employee’s rights cannot be abridged by contract (including a settlement) or waived because such would undermine the purpose of the Act.
In this particular case, the employer tendered the amount claimed to be owed to the employee’s attorney and moved to dismiss the case. The attorney returned the check. Later, the employer offered to settle for $5,000 but the employee’s attorney never communicated the offer to the employee because the offer was not in writing. After the employee received a 1099 reflecting the $3,600 check (which the employee never cashed) she contacted the employer directly and signed a release and took the $3,600 check from the employer. Thereafter the parties moved to have the judge determine whether the acceptance of the check rendered the case moot and stripped the attorneys’ fee claim because there was no judgment finding the employee to be the prevailing party.
The trial judge ruled that the settlement was reasonable and approved the settlement, but found that the case was not moot and awarded the employee’s counsel $61,810.44.
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