Wednesday, March 20, 2019

DOL: Complying with state wage and hour exemptions is not enough

Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor issued an opinion letter (FLSA2019-1). The employer is located in  New York, which has a state law exemption from overtime pay requirements for "residential janitors." The federal Fair Labor Standards Act does not include an exemption for residential janitors. Does the employer have to pay the residential janitors overtime?

Simply put, where state and federal wage and hour laws are different, the employer must generally comply with both of them, and "meet the standard of whichever law gives the employee the greatest protection."
Not official use.

The FLSA allows employees to collect liquidated damages, but if the employer acted in "good faith" then a court may deny liquidated damages. DOL "does not believe that relying on a state law exemption from state law minimum wage and overtime requirements is a good faith defense to noncompliance with the FLSA, but a court retains discretion to make that determination on a case-by-case basis."

The letter notes that the statute of limitations for FLSA claims is extended from 2 years to 3 years for a "willful violation." The letter, however, does not expressly address whether reliance on a state law exemption is sufficient to limit recovery to two years - this is likely a fact-based inquiry dependent on whether the employer "knew that its conduct was prohibited" or "showed reckless disregard for the requirements."

Bottom line: employers (and their attorneys) must be familiar with, and comply with, federal, state, and local wage and hour laws.

No comments:

Post a Comment