Category Archives: State Law Claims

W.D.Pa.: Although FLSA Does Not Provide Coverage For Work Performed In Foreign Countries, Pennsylvania Wage And Collection Act (PMWA) Does

Truman v. DeWolff, Boberg & Associates, Inc.

Plaintiff commenced this action against Defendant alleging violations of section 16(b) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (“FLSA”) 29 U.S.C. 216(b); the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act of 1968 (“PMWA”) 43 P.S. §§ 333.101-333.115; and the Pennsylvania Wage Collection Act of 1961, 43 Pa. Cons.Stat. Ann. §§ 260.1-260.45. Before the Court is Defendant’s motion for Partial Summary Judgment seeking dismissal of Mr. Truman’s claim that he is due overtime pay under the FLSA for the period of time he worked outside of the United States. Defnedant filed a Reply to Mr. Truman’s Response arguing for the first time that Mr. Truman was also not entitled to overtime payments under the PMWA for the period of time he worked in foreign countries. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a Sur-Reply opposing the imposition of Partial Summary Judgment to his PMWA claim. The Court denied the motion for Partial Summary Judgment with regards to the PMWA claim.

After discussing the statutory basis for granting Defendant’s Motion regarding the FLSA and the foreign work, the Court turned to Plaintiff’s claims for the same work under the PMWA, stating, “[t]he Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act guarantees that employees will be paid one and one-half times their regular rate for any overtime worked. 43 P.S. § 333.104(c). Exemptions to this statutory provision are recorded in 43 P.S. § 333.105. Unlike the FLSA, the PMWA does not contain an explicit exemption for work performed outside of the United States. However, the PMWA has been construed to extend its protections to employees who work outside of Pennsylvania. Friedrich v. U.S. Computer Systems, Inc., 1996 WL 32888 (E.D.Pa. Jan.22, 1996). In Friedrich the Court permitted the PMWA to apply to Pennsylvania-based employees who perform work in states outside of Pennsylvania. 1996 WL 32888, at *8-9. Allowing employees who perform work outside of Pennsylvania to benefit from the PMWA is in accord with the PMWA’s Declaration of Policy. 43 P.S. § 333.101 (“Employes employed in such occupations are not as a class on a level of equality in bargaining with their employers in regard to minimum fair wage standards … wages in such occupations are often found to bear no relation to the fair value of the services rendered”). Thus, there is nothing within the PMWA that restricts the benefits of the PMWA to work performed within the United States.

The FLSA does not preempt state minimum wage acts from offering greater protection to state employees than does the FLSA. For example, the FLSA states that, “[n]o provision of this Act … or of any order thereunder shall excuse noncompliance with any Federal or State law or municipal ordinance establishing a minimum wage higher than the minimum wage established under this Act.”29 U.S.C. § 218(a). Additionally, several courts have found that explicit FLSA exemptions do not preempt state laws from offering state employees greater protections than FLSA. See e.g., Pacific Merchant Shipping Ass’n v. Aubry, 918 F.2d 1409, 1417 (9th Cir.1990) (“We hold that [29 U.S.C.] section 213(b)(6) does not preempt California from applying the state’s overtime pay laws to FLSA-exempt seamen working off the California coast.”); Pennsylvania Dept. of Labor and Industry v. Whipple, 1989 WL 407328, at *3 (Pa.Com.Pl., 1989) (Overtime exemptions under FLSA “do not affect coverage under Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act”); Ploufe v. Farm & Ranch Equip. Co., 174 Mont. 313, 320, 570 P.2d 1106 (Mont.1977) (holding that FLSA did not preempt Montana from regulating overtime and wages under the Montana Minimum Wages and Hours Act). In light of the FLSA’s explicit recognition that states may offer greater protections to its employees than the FLSA, we are reluctant to find an unstated foreign-work exemption in the PMWA based solely on the fact that the FLSA contains such an exemption. Baum v. Astrazeneca LP, 605 F.Supp.2d 669, 674 (W.D.Pa.2009) (finding that “[b]ecause the FLSA is a remedial act, the exemptions are typically narrowly construed”).

In Williams v. W.V.A. Transit Co., 472 F.2d 1258 (D.C.Cir.1972), the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found that the District of Columbia Minimum Wage Act was not limited by an explicit FLSA exemption:

[A]n employee does not lose his status of being employed in the District merely because he receives an assignment, for a relatively short period, that calls on him to spend all his time for that period at some location outside the District. Otherwise, that status would be lost or suspended through relatively isolated or occasional employment outside the District, and from the common sense of the matter we conclude that this is not the legislative intent. 472 F.2d at 1265-1266. As in Williams, we find that, although there is an applicable FLSA exemption, we cannot find an implied foreign work exemption in the PMWA to remove coverage from Pennsylvania residents who have been given assignments outside of Pennsylvania. If the Pennsylvania legislature had wanted to exempt foreign work from the PMWA it could have expressly included that exemption within the PMWA. See Friedrich, 1996 WL 32888, at *5 (“The Pennsylvania legislature enacted the PMWA to protect those employees who do not benefit from federal protection [under the FLSA].”) Our conclusion is in accord with the FLSA and its regulations that permit state laws to offer greater protections than the FLSA. See29 U.S.C. 218(a) (Section 218“expressly contemplates that workers covered by state law as well as FLSA shall have any additional benefits provided by the state law higher minimum wages; or lower maximum work week.” Williams, 472 F.2d at 1261);29 C.F.R. § 778.5 (“[n]othing in the act, the regulations or the interpretations announced by the Administrator should be taken to override or nullify the provisions” of state and local laws.)

In support of its argument that the FLSA and PMWA should have an identical analysis, DBA relies on Paul v. UPMC Health Sys., C.A. No. 06-1565, 2009 WL 699943 (W.D.Pa. Mar.10, 2009). In Paul, the defendant argued that the plaintiff was properly classified as an administrative employee and was therefore exempt from the overtime requirements under both the FLSA or the PMWA. The Paul Court noted that the “administrative exemptions” set forth in both the FLSA and PMWA are identical, and therefore only analyzed “the applicability of the administrative exemption to plaintiff’s FLSA claim,” noting that “the same analysis, however, also applies to plaintiff’s PMWA claim.” 2009 WL 699943, at *8, n. 1. The Paul Court applied an identical analysis only because both Acts contain express administrative exemptions. The Paul case does not address the circumstance when the FLSA contains an explicit exemption and the PMWA contains no corresponding exemption.

DBA’s reliance on Mitchell v. Abercrombie & Fitch, No. C2-04-306, 2005 WL 1159412 (S.D.Ohio May 17, 2005) is also misplaced. The Mitchell case concerned application of the Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act to a plaintiff who not only did all of his work outside of Ohio, but also did not reside in Ohio. The Mitchell Court found that the Ohio legislature did not intend the Act to apply to workers, “who perform no work within the territorial limits of the State of Ohio [and that] the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution prohibits Ohio from regulating the working conditions of a non-resident who performs work and earns wages outside of the state.” 2005 WL 1159412, at *3 (emphasis added). The Mitchell Court also noted that there was “no claim that [plaintiff] ever worked for even a brief period of time in Ohio, which would change the analysis as to the applicability of Ohio law to his employment relationship.” 2005 WL 1159412, at *4. Here, there is no dispute that Mr. Truman is a Pennsylvania-based employee.

The employer has the burden of proof of to show that an employee fits into an exemption. Baum, 605 F.Supp.2d at 674. Mr. Truman has conceded that work he performed outside of the United States is not protected by the FLSA, and thus we will grant DBA’s motion in this respect. However, DBA has failed to show that Mr. Truman is an exempt employee under the PMWA for the work performed in England and Canada. Nothing within the language of the statute implies that work performed in a foreign country by a Pennsylvania resident does not deserve the same protections as work performed within Pennsylvania by the same resident and for the same company. Accordingly, we will deny the motion for partial summary judgment with regards to the PMWA claim.”

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D.N.J.: Defendant’s Motion To Dismiss Opt-out NJWL Claims As Incompatible With FLSA Opt-in Claims Denied At Pleading Stage

Perry v. Freedom Mortg. Corp.

This case was before the Court on Defendant’s motion to dismiss or strike count II of Plaintiffs Complaint, which alleged overtime law violations pursuant to the New Jersey Wage Law (“NJWL”). The Court denied Defendant’s motion, explaining that it was premature at the pleading stage. This case is of note, because there is conflict of authority within the 3rd Circuit, as to whether Rule 23 “opt-out” classes and 216(b) “opt-in” classes can ever be brought together, or whether the Court should necessary deny its inherent supplemental authority necessarily in such cases.

“The underlying Complaint in this case is a putative class claim, filed by Plaintiff, contending that Freedom violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. and the New Jersey’s Wage Law (“NJWL”), N.J.S.A. 34:11-56a et seq. by improperly classifying mortgage loan officers to prevent them from receiving overtime pay for work in excess of 40 hours a week. In its motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s NJWL claim, Freedom argues that Plaintiff’s FLSA and NJWL claims are legally incompatible. This Court concurs with and adopts Judge Linares’ reasoning in Freeman v. Hoffman-Laroche, Inc. No. 07-1503, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 92589, at * 70*10 (N.J.D. Dec. 18, 2007), determining that dismissal of a cause of action under NJWL solely for “inherent incompatibility” with FLSA is not appropriate.

Freedom’s additional argument is that the Court should dismiss Count II because Plaintiff cannot establish the “superiority” test required for class certification under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3). The Court holds that this argument is premature. The parties have conducted no discovery. No motions for class certification have been filed. The Court will be in a much better position to address this issue at the class certification stage.”

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Costco Accused Of Wage Law Violations

The New York Times is reporting that Costco Wholesale, the warehouse club, has been sued by a California worker alleging false imprisonment because, she says, employees are locked in stores against their will for 15 minutes after they are off duty.

The complaint, which seeks to represent several hundred Costco workers in California, asks for $50 million in back pay plus damages from 2005 until the present.

To read the full story, go to the New York Times website.

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D.Kan.: Defendant Not Entitled To Sanctions Due To Plaintiff’s Refusal To Dismiss Certain Claims

Armstrong v. Wackenhut Corp.

Finding that the lead plaintiff in a wage-and-hour suit against G4S Wackenhut Corp. did not unreasonably refuse to dismiss state law claims, a federal judge has refused to grant Wackenhut attorneys’ fees for expenses it incurred filing a motion to dismiss those claims.  In an order handed down last week, the District Court Judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas rejected Wackenhut’s bid for attorneys’ fees under Section 1927 and under Rule 11.

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