Settlement in FLSA Overtime Case
We just settled a Federal case representing three long-term Water Distribution Supervisors against the City of St. Louis. Our hardworking clients worked hundreds or even thousands of hours of overtime every year for years, But they did not get paid time and a half for overtime!!! Ever. But Water distribution supervisors would continue being paid at their straight hourly rate for time above 40 hours.
Each of our clients had worked for the City for more than 20 years at the time of suit. They helped to maintain and repair the water systems that provide water to the City and its residents. They are required to work mandatory overtime, weekend and holiday assignments, and be on 24-hour call to attend to emergencies like water main breaks. That they had always received only straight-time pay for overtime, rather than time-and-a-half, yielded a strange result. Their subordinates, who were considered non-exempt, made more money than them with the overtime.
Burger Law on the Fair Labor Standards Act
We filed suit in the case and each side took depositions. The City argued the Supervisors are exempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and do not have to be paid time-and-a-half, although at first blush it’s surprising our clients did not get paid time and a half for overtime considering how many hours and how hard they worked.
But, it was a really difficult case because a significant amount of Missouri and Eighth Circuit law supported the City’s argument. The FLSA is written and interpreted in a way that provides favorable treatment for employers, especially public employers.
Here’s a video of Tyler Thompson, of Burger Law, and our client Bernard discussing the case.
The FLSA actually permits a number of exemptions to the usual time-and-half rule, including for employees working in an “executive” capacity, meaning the employee supervises other employees in a management position.
Obtaining a Settlement in the Case
The parties actually both filed motions for summary judgment; each side arguing to the Court that it could resolve the case without involving a jury. We did not think our supervisors digging up water pipes in the middle of the night were “executives.” But the law is tough.
While the summary judgment motion was pending, we were able to reach an amicable settlement to obtain full back pay for our clients, as well as an agreement with the City to change the Supervisors’ employment classifications and guarantee them time-and-a-half pay for overtime going forward, changing a pay ordinance that had existed for more than 20 years.
The City paid $135,000 to settle the case. But the most important impact for the supervisors is the increase to time-and-a-half for overtime effective now and into the future – which will make their pay commensurate with their position. This case resolution benefits not only our clients but other employees who will be working as Water Distribution Supervisors for the City. I would also note what good and professional lawyers were on the other side of the case.
Our clients are very happy with the result and we were honored to represent them in their effort to be paid fairly by the City for the important and difficult work they do.
Fair Labor Lawsuits | Burger Law
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