Tag Archives: Damages

D.Ariz.: Where Construction Inspector Was Salaried Misclassified, Damages to Calculated Using Default Time and a Half Methodology, Not FWW

Blotzer v. L-3 Communications Corp.

This case was before the court on the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment. Both plaintiff and defendant contended that they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law regarding the exempt status of plaintiff, a construction inspector. The parties further disputed whether the fluctuating workweek methodology or the FLSA’s default time and a half methodology was applicable to calculate plaintiff’s damages, assuming he had been misclassified. After finding plaintiff to be non-exempt, the court held that plaintiff’s damages had to be calculated using the FLSA’s default methodology, because: (1) it is contrary to the rationale of the FLSA to apply the FWW method in misclassification cases; (2) application of the FWW in misclassification cases runs counter to the intent of the FLSA; and (3) even if the FWW method were applied, the defendant had failed to prove the elements of the FWW method were present in the case.

The court explained:

The FWW method set forth in 29 C.F.R. § 778.114 is not intended to apply retroactively in a misclassification case. See Urnikis–Negro, 616 F.3d at 666 (stating that 29 C.F.R. § 778.114 is not a remedial measure that specifies how damages are to be calculated when a court finds that an employer has breached its statutory obligations). It was drafted by the Department of Labor as “forward-looking” and only describes how employers and employees should structure an agreement for future compensation. Id. at 677. Moreover, because the regulation was adopted without formal rule-making, it is entitled to less deference. See Hasan v. GPM Investments, LLC, 2012 WL 3725693, *2 (D.Conn.2012) (citing Christensen v. Harris Co., 529 U.S. 576, 120 S.Ct. 1655, 146 L.Ed.2d 621 (2000)). The Court concludes that the FWW should not be applied in the present case because: (1) it is contrary to the rationale of the FLSA to apply the FWW method in misclassification cases; (2) application of the FWW in misclassification cases runs counter to the intent of the FLSA; and (3) even if the FWW method were applied, Defendant has failed to prove the elements of the FWW method are present in this case.

Application of the FWW method in a misclassification case is contrary to FLSA’s rationale. The FWW method requires proof of a “clear mutual understanding” that: (1) the fixed salary is compensation for the hours worked each work week, whatever their number; and (2) overtime pay will be provided contemporaneously such that it fluctuates depending on hours worked per week. See 29 C.F.R. §§ 778.114(a) & (c). In a misclassification case, at least one of the parties initiated employment with the belief that the employee was exempt from the FLSA, paid on a salary basis, and therefore not entitled to overtime. When an employee is erroneously classified as exempt and illegally being deprived of overtime pay, neither the fourth nor fifth legal prerequisites for use of the FWW method is satisfied. The parties do not have a “clear, mutual understanding” that a fixed salary will be paid for “fluctuating hours, apart from overtime premiums” because the parties have not contemplated overtime pay. In addition, because the employees were erroneously classified as exempt, overtime compensation was not provided contemporaneously. See Russell v. Wells Fargo and Co., 672 F.Supp.2d 1008 (N.D.Cal.2009); Hasan, 2012 WL 3725693 at * 4 (collecting cases which hold that, in a misclassification case, the parties never agreed to an essential term of a fluctuating work week arrangement, ie. that overtime would be paid at different rates depending on the number of hours worked per week). As the court stated in Ransom v. M. Patel Enters., Inc., 825 F.Supp.2d 799, 810 n. 11 (W.D.Tex.2011):

The significance of the employee’s lack of knowledge of nonexempt status cannot be overstated. The fundamental assumption underpinning the FWW is that it is fair to use it to calculate overtime pay because the employee consented to the payment scheme. But in the context of an FLSA misclassification suit when consent is inferred from the employee’s conduct, that conduct will always, by definition, have been based on the false assumption that he was not entitled to overtime compensation. The job will have been advertised as a salaried position. The employee, if he raised the issue, will have been told that the salary is all he will receive, regardless of how many hours he works. That is the very nature of a salaried, exempt position. When it turns out that the employer is wrong, and it is learned that the FLSA required the employer to pay the employee an overtime premium, the notion that the employees conduct before he knew this is evidence that the employee somehow consented to a calculation method for the overtime pay that no one even knew was due, is perverse. If the FWW requires consent in some fashion, the employee’s actions before he knew he was due overtime pay just cannot logically be the basis of that consent.

Furthermore, 29 C.F.R. § 778.114(c) provides that the FWW method cannot be used “where all the facts indicate that an employee is being paid for his overtime hours at a rate no greater than that which he receives for non-overtime hours.” In a misclassification case, because employees have not been paid overtime premiums, they are compensated for those hours worked more than forty at a rate not greater than the regular rate. Russell, 672 F.Supp.2d at 1014. Thus, attempting to retroactively apply the FWW method to a miscalculation case is akin to “the old ‘square peg in a round hole’ problem [because it requires] apply[ing] § 778.114 to a situation it was not intended to address.” EZPawn, 633 F.Supp.2d at 402.

“In making its decision here, the Court is ‘mindful of the directive that the [FLSA] is to be liberally construed to apply to the furthest reaches consistent with Congressional direction.’ ” Russell, 672 F.Supp.2d at 1014 (citing Klem, 208 F.3d at 1089). Application of the FWW in a misclassification case gives rise to a “perverse incentive” for employers, because the employee’s hourly “regular rate” decreases with each additional hour worked. In fact, the difference between the FWW method and the traditional time-anda-half method can result in an employee being paid seventy-one percent less for overtime over a given year, and under the FWW method, the effective overtime hourly rate of an employee working sixty-one hours or more is less than the non-overtime hourly rate of an employee who worked no more than forty hours per week. See Russell, 672 F.Supp.2d at 1012;
see also
Hasan, 2012 WL 3725693 at *2 (calculating the pay difference for a misclassified employer under both methods). This result is contrary to the FLSA’s purpose: encouraging employers to spread employment among more workers, rather than employing fewer workers who are then required to work longer hours. See Robertson v. Alaska Juneau Gold Min. Co. ., 157 F.2d 876, 879 (9th Cir.1946)

The court further explained that even if it had reached the opposite conclusion of law (i.e. that the FWW could be applicable in some misclassification cases), the facts of the case would still preclude its application here:

Finally, even if the Court concluded that the FWW method does apply in some miscalculation cases, it would not apply in the present case because Defendant has failed to demonstrate a “fluctuating” work week or a “clear mutual understanding” of straight pay and a contemporaneous overtime arrangement as required by the regulation. The FWW was intended to apply to “fluctuating” work schedules, ie. schedules in which an employee endures long hours some weeks but enjoys the benefit of short hours in other weeks, all at the same rate of pay. See Hasan, 2012 WL 3725693 at *4. In the present case, it is undisputed that Plaintiffs consistently worked more than 40 hours per week. Thus, Plaintiffs’ “variance, between weeks with a moderate amount of overtime hours, and weeks where a majority of hours worked exceeded the 40 hour threshold, is not the same as the up and down fluctuation contemplated by the DOL and by the Court in Missel.Id. In addition, by its plain terms, the FWW method applies only when the employee clearly understands that he will receive straight-time pay for all hours worked and extra compensation of at least half his regular rate of pay, in addition to the fixed salary, for overtime hours during the weeks when he works overtime. Hunter v. Sprint Corp., 453 F.Supp.2d 44, 59 (D.D.C.2006); Russell, 672 F.Supp.2d at 1013–14. No such clear, mutual understanding is present in this case. Defendant contends that Plaintiffs agreed to work for a set salary regardless of whether they worked “35 hours or 55 hours.” (Doc. 74, pg.13.) Defendant misquotes Plaintiffs’ testimony regarding the number of hours they anticipated working. Although Defendant describes the Plaintiffs’ testimony regarding their salary as their “sole source of income regardless of whether they worked 35 or 55 hours,” neither Plaintiff testified to any expectation of ever working less than 40 hours. (Doc. 71, pg. 10; Doc. 71–1, pgs. 35 & 52.) The undisputed evidence is that Plaintiffs expected to work 50 hours a week. Furthermore, even if Defendant could prove that Plaintiffs and Defendant had a clear, mutual understanding that Plaintiffs would work 50 hours a week without overtime pay, such an arrangement amounts to an agreement “not to receive their FLSA entitlement to overtime pay. This would be illegal. Employees cannot agree to waive their right to overtime pay.” Russell, 672 F.Supp.2d at 1014. The parties’ lack of “mutual understanding” regarding Plaintiffs’ salary is further supported by the fact that Plaintiffs, upon realizing that they were being required to work far more than 50 hours per week, complained about their hours and were eventually paid some overtime.

In sum, the Court agrees with its sister district court in Northern California which held that “If Defendants’ position were adopted, an employer, after being held liable for FLSA violations, would be able unilaterally to choose to pay employees their unpaid overtime premium under the more employer-friendly of the two calculation methods. Given the remedial purpose of the FLSA, it would be incongruous to allow employees, who have been illegally deprived of overtime pay, to be shortchanged further by an employer who opts for the discount accommodation intended for a different situation.” Russell, 672 F.Supp.2d at 1014. Accordingly, the Court concludes that the FWW method to damages calculation is not applicable in the instant case.

Click Blotzer v. L-3 Communications Corp. to read the entire Order.

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D.Conn.: Time and a Half is the Proper Measure of Damages in a “Salary Misclassification” Case

Hasan v. GPM Investments, LLC

Yet another court has weighed in on the FWW (“half-time”) versus time and a half issue in so-called “salary misclassification” cases, and this time it’s a victory for employees. This case was before the court on the plaintiffs’ motion in limine regarding the methodology for calculating damages, in the event the plaintiffs prevailed on their misclassification claims at trial. Addressing all of the arguments typically proffered by plaintiff-employees and defendant-employers, the court held that the fluctuating work week methodology was inapplicable because the defendant failed to meet several of the prerequisites for its use. Thus, the court held that any damages had to be calculated using the FLSA’s default time and a half methodology.

After a lengthy discussion of the Missel case, a history of the FWW and recent salary misclassification decisions, the court discussed why the FWW could not apply to a salary misclassification case. Framing the issue, the court explained:

Plaintiffs contend that the fluctuating work week method of compensation is never appropriate in a case where an employer has misclassified an employee as exempt from the FLSA’s protections. They argue that misclassification cases only present one issue—how to reconstruct what the rate of pay would have been absent a violation. Defendants counter that in a misclassification case “a fixed salary is always meant to compensate for all hours worked,” and under Missel, a fluctuating work week calculation “provides the precise remedy.” Def. Opp. at 12. In other words, a misclassification case does not require that the court recreate a rate, but, instead, that it convert a unusual payment method into an hourly rate. Plaintiffs have the better argument and one need look no further than the DOL’s guidance to understand why.

Initially, the court noted that where an employer has classified an employee as exempt, logically there is never a mutual understanding that overtime will be paid at varying rates, because the parties agreement is that there will be no overtime at all.

When an employer misclassifies an employee, the resultant employment contract will never fulfill any of the requirements of section 778.114. First, parties who believe that an employee merits no overtime payment cannot simultaneously believe that any overtime will be paid at varying rates. Put another way, in a misclassification case, the parties never agreed to an essential term of a fluctuating work week arrangement—that overtime would be paid at different rates depending on the number of hours worked per week. See Perkins v. Southern New England Telephone Co., 2011 WL 4460248 at *3 (D.Conn. Sept. 27, 2011), Russell, 672 F.Supp.2d at 1013–14,Rainey v. Am. Forest & Paper Assoc., 26 F.2d 82, 100–02 (D.D.C.1998). To assume otherwise converts every salaried position into a position compensated at a fluctuating rate.

Next, the court noted the lack of contemporaneous overtime payment at the time the work in question was performed, pursuant to the parties agreement that there would be no overtime:

Second, misclassified employees will never have received any kind of bonus or premium for overtime. Indeed, parties will have explicitly agreed, as they did in this case, that employees will not earn extra money for long hours. See Def. Opp. Ex. A Job Description (listing the position as explicitly “exempt” from overtime compensation). At best, an employer could argue that the flat salary had an overtime bump embedded within it, that it was high enough so that employees remained well compensated for the hardship of working more than 40 hours per week. But this argument fails for two reasons: First, such an agreement would be illegal. An employee would have to waive her statutory right to extra compensation for overtime. Barrentine v. Arkansas–Best Freight Sys., 450 U.S. 728, 740 (1981) (noting that “FLSA rights cannot be abridged by contract” because this would “nullify the purposes of the statute”). Second, Missel explicitly rejected such an argument. The court reasoned that the contract at issue did not comply with the FLSA because “it [did not include a] provision for additional pay in the event the hours worked required minimum compensation greater than the fixed wage.” Missel, 316 U.S. at 581.

Further, here the court noted that while the plaintiffs’ hours fluctuated, the never worked fewer than 40 hours. Thus, the court concluded this was not a situation where short weeks were balanced against longer weeks and the plaintiffs were nonetheless receiving the type of steady income envisioned by the FWW as the supposed benefit for employees:

In this case, GPM also fails to meet a third criterion enunciated in the DOL’s guidance—that an employee’s hours actually fluctuate. After it lays out the requirements for a contract for a fluctuating rate, the rule warns that “typically, such salaries are paid to employees who do not customarily work a regular schedule of hours” and are “in amounts agreed on by the parties as adequate straight-time compensation for long work weeks as well as short ones .” 29 C.F.R. § 778.114(c). For a fluctuating work week arrangement to make sense to both parties, employees should offset their relative loss from a grueling work week far above forty hours with the benefit of full pay for weeks that clock-in at less than forty hours. Otherwise, employees have not bargained for anything but decreasing marginal pay as they work longer and longer hours at work. This is what the Court divined in Missel; a rate clerk would sometimes work long hours when shipments flooded in, and sometimes not at all when business dried up. Here, plaintiffs never had a short week; GPM’s job description stated that store managers were expected to work a minimum of 52 hours per week. See Def. Opp. Ex. A, Job Description. To the extent their hours fluctuated, it was because they sometimes worked almost 100 hours per week. See Plaintiff’s Motion in Limine, Ex. A, Timesheets. This variance, between weeks with a moderate amount of overtime hours, and weeks where a majority of hours worked exceeded the 40 hour threshold, is not the same as the up and down fluctuation contemplated by the DOL and by the Court in Missel.

In light of the defendant’s failure to meet any of the prerequisites for the use of the FWW, the court concluded that any damages due would be calculated using the FLSA’s default time and a half methodology.  Thus, it granted the plaintiffs’ motion in limine.

Click Hasan v. GPM Investments, LLC to read the entire Ruling and Order on Motion in Limine to Preclude Use of the Fluctuating Work Week.

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USSC: Plaintiff’s Petition for Certiorari Denied Regarding Calculation of Damages for “Salaried Misclassified” Workers

Urnikis-Negro v. American Family Property

In a case where the United States Supreme Court could have decided the oft-raised issue of how to calculate an employee’s damages, following a finding that they were “salaried misclassified,” the Supreme Court has denied Plaintiff’s Petition for Cert, and therefore the issue remains largely unresolved.  In a decision discussed here, the Seventh Circuit held that the proper calculation of damages in such a situation was the the “fluctuating workweek” methodology, rather than time and a half.  The Fourth Circuit held that only “half-time” damages are due when an employee is salaried misclassified recently too.  This decision was widely watched by Wage and Hour practitioners, because of the impact the calculation issue has on damages for such employees who are misclassified.   Under the fluctuating workweek calculation, an employee who was salaried and misclassified receives less than one third the damages he or she would receive if the award were made at time and a half.

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M.D.Fla.: In “Salary Misclassification” Case, Time And A Half Damages Due, Because FWW Calculation Would Result In Sub-Minimum Wages For Overtime Hours In Many Weeks

West v. Verizon Services Corp.

This case was before the court on the Defendants’ motions for summary judgment on a variety of issues.  Defendants’ motions were denied.  As discussed here, the case of interest, because the court weighed in on the hot-button issue of how to calculate damages for an employee who was “salaried misclassified” by his or her employer.  Here, the court held that the damages for the plaintiff, if any, were to be calculated using the FLSA’s default time and a half methodology, largely because a calculation under the fluctuating workweek methodology (FWW) would result in sub-minimum wages for overtime hours in many weeks.

Pertinent to the issue discussed here, Plaintiffs pay was $400.00 per week in salary and, in some instances they could earn a $200.00 bonus in addition, if certain conditions were met.  The testimony in the record also indicated that the Plaintiffs worked varying hours each week, sometimes working in excess of 60 hours per week.

Holding that Plaintiffs’ damages, if any, were due to be calculated at the FLSA’s default time and a half rate, the court reasoned:

“D. Rate of Overtime Compensation

As noted above, Defendants argue that West is not entitled to any overtime compensation. However, in the alternative to Defendants’ aforementioned arguments, Defendants submit that if West is entitled to overtime compensation, she is not entitled to overtime compensation at the rate of time and one-half for hours worked over 40. Rather, Defendants contend that, if West is entitled to overtime compensation, her damages should be calculated using the “half-time” method. West disagrees, and seeks time and one-half for all overtime hours worked.

The FLSA mandates overtime payment for non-exempt employees for hours worked over 40 in a workweek at a rate of one and one-half times the regular rate at which the employee is paid. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). As correctly noted by Defendants, “calculation of the ‘regular rate’ is thus the starting point for determining the amount of overtime an employee is owed.” (Doc. # 214 at 12).

In Overnight Motor Transportation Company v. Missel, 316 U.S. 572, 580, 62 S.Ct. 1216, 86 L.Ed. 1682 (1942), the Court held that the employee’s “regular rate” may be determined by dividing the number of hours actually worked by the weekly wage. Id. As a result, a non-exempt employee who receives a weekly salary for all hours worked (even hours over 40) has, by definition, already been paid his “regular rate” for all hours worked in the workweek. Using this method, a salaried employee is only owed half-time for any hours worked in excess of 40 per week.

There can be no doubt that under certain circumstances, overtime payment using the half-time approach is entirely appropriate. “Virtually every court that has considered the question has upheld the remedial use of half-time in failed exemption cases.” Torres v. Bacardi Global Brands Promotions, Inc., 482 F.Supp.2d 1379, 1381, n. 2 (S.D.Fla.2007) (internal citation omitted). However, West asserts that compensation for overtime using the half-time approach, rather than the time and one-half approach, is improper here because Defendants have not satisfied the requirements of the “Fluctuating Work Week” Regulation.

Under 29 C.F.R. § 778.114, the fluctuating workweek method of calculating compensation is used only if the following requirements are met: (1) the employee’s hours fluctuate from week to week; (2) the employee receives a fixed weekly salary which remains the same regardless of the number of hours worked during the week; (3) the fixed amount is sufficient to provide compensation at a regular rate not less than the legal minimum wage; (4) the employer and the employee have a clear and mutual understanding that the employer will pay the employee a fixed salary regardless of the number of hours worked; and (5) the employee receives a fifty percent overtime premium in addition to the fixed weekly salary for all hours worked in excess of 40 during the week. See also Davis v. Friendly Express, Inc., 61 Fed. App’x 671 (11th Cir.2003); O’Brien v. Town of Agawam, 350 F.3d 279, 288 (1st Cir.2003); Griffin v. Wake County, 142 F.3d 712, 716 (4th Cir.1998).

It is evident that the arrangement between West and Defendants does not comport with the fluctuating workweek requirements above. Most importantly, if West worked 72 hours a week, her hourly rate using the fluctuating workweek method would be $5.56, which is less than the applicable minimum wage during the time of her employment ($6.79). As calculated by West, “any week in which West worked at least 59 hours, her hourly rate would fall below the guaranteed minimum wage.” (Doc. # 224).

In addition, West testified that her hours did not fluctuate in that she worked 72 hours per week, every week. There can be no understanding that an employee’s salary is intended to compensate for fluctuating hours-the hallmark of a fluctuating work week case-when the worker understands her hours to be set at 72 hours per week. Furthermore, West’s salary was not “fixed” because she received various bonus payments and commissions.

On the present record, the Court declines to determine that West’s overtime compensation, if any, should be limited to half-time, rather than time and one-half. In the instance that a jury determines that West is entitled to overtime compensation, West’s rate of overtime compensation will be time and one-half.”

Click West v. Verizon Services Corp. to read the entire order.

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W.D.Wash.: Notwithstanding Prior DOL Consent Judgment, Plaintiffs May Pursue Full Damages Under State Law, Because Appropriate Damages For Salary Misclassification Are Time And A Half Not FWW, And Damages Under Consent Judgment Represented Only Partial Relief

Monahan v. Emerald Performance Materials, LLC

This case was before the Court on the parties cross-motions for summary judgment.  The issue was whether a prior consent judgment entered into by the DOL and the Defendant employer precluded this subsequent case, based solely on Washington state law, despite the fact that Plaintiffs were not on notice of the prior proceedings, did not participate in the prior proceedings, and Plaintiffs did not receive full damages due them under the prior consent judgment.  Because the damages awarded previously–based on FWW, rather than time and a half–were insufficient, and Plaintiffs were not parties to the prior litigation, the Court found that they were not precluded from pursuing their full time and a half damages due them.  Further, the Court held that although the consent judgment barred a subsequent FLSA action, it did not preempt or preclude a claim for the additional damages due, solely under the relevant Washington state law.

Discussing the relevant procedural background, the Court stated:

“Immediately after discovering the potential violation in overtime pay for twelve-hour shift employees, Emerald, through counsel, reported the potential overtime pay violation to the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, in Ohio (where Emerald is headquartered). After investigation, the Department of Labor determined that a violation occurred. On May 27, 2008, the Department filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio seeking to enjoin Emerald from continuing to violate the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and from continuing to withhold overtime compensation due to eighty-eight (88) employees, including all ten plaintiffs in this matter, who worked twelve-hour scheduled shifts and were paid according to Section 17A of the CBA.

The Department of Labor reviewed Emerald’s time and payroll records to calculate the amount of overtime back wages due. The Department of Labor determined that Article 17A of the CBA provided for payments of a fixed weekly amount of compensation regardless of the number of hours worked in any particular work week. The Department of Labor and Emerald entered into a Consent Judgment that enjoined Emerald from violating the overtime provisions of the FLSA and further required Emerald to tender payment to each of the subject employees in an individual amount listed in the Consent Judgment. The total amount tendered was $241,308. On July 29, 2008, U.S. District Judge Lioi entered the Consent Judgment, which set forth the specific amount of back wages due and owing to each employee.”

Plaintiffs and all other employees affected by the Secretary’s lawsuit in Ohio did not receive notice of the lawsuit, did not participate in any way in the lawsuit, did not have standing to appeal the Consent Judgment and did not have knowledge of the lawsuit until sometime after the defendant began distributing checks for unpaid overtime wages to them in August 2008.

Seventy-eight (78) employees listed in the Consent Judgment accepted the overtime back wages tendered to them. The ten plaintiffs in this case rejected the tendered amounts. On October 10, 2008, plaintiffs filed this lawsuit seeking overtime compensation under both the Federal FLSA and the Washington Minimum Wage Act (MWA). Plaintiffs are claiming back wages commencing in October 2005, before Emerald became the plaintiffs’ employer. Plaintiffs claim that Emerald has “successor liability.” Plaintiffs allege at paragraph 8 of their complaint that the Department of Labor in the Ohio action did not properly calculate the overtime back wages due.”

Discussing the proper time and a half calculation for overtime damages due in a salary misclassification case, the Court stated:

“Both the FLSA and MWA overtime provisions require an employer to pay time and one-half the regular rate of pay for all hours worked in a work week in excess of 40. 29 U.S.C. § 207 and RCW 49.46.130(1). Under the Washington Administrative Code, the term “regular rate” is determined “by dividing the amount of compensation received per week by the total number of hours worked during that week.” WAC 296-128-550. Similarly, under the United States Department of Labor Wage and Hour regulations at 29 C.F.R. § 778.109, an employee’s regular hourly rate of pay is determined “by dividing his total remuneration for employment (except statutory exclusions) in any work week by the total number of hours actually worked by him in that work week for which such compensation was paid .” Therefore, “regular rate of pay” is the same under both the FLSA and the MWA. Plaintiffs’ claims for overtime compensation under the FLSA and the Washington MWA are identical.

The Ohio District Court entered a judgment ordering payment of overtime using the flexible work week method. That judgment disposed of all claims under federal law but left open the question whether identical language under Washington law should be interpreted in the same manner as the Ohio Court interpreted federal law. There is no clear guidance from the Supreme Court on the subject and cases from different circuits seem to be split in cases with comparable or analogous circumstances. The Ninth Circuit has not weighed in on the issue.

First, the Court resolves the issue of preemption by determining that the CBA provision in question is clear and unambiguous. The parties intended to segment the wages earned by 12-hour shift employees using the flexible work week methodology. No further interpretation of the provision is necessary or possible. Because the interpretation of a CBA is not required, the state claims are not preempted in this case. Lividas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107, 125 (1994); Cramer v. Consolidated Freightways, Inc., 225 F.3d 683, 691 (9th Cir.2001). Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment on the issue of preemption [Dkt. # 39] is DENIED.

Next the Court must review the applicable regulation and the interpretive case law to determine whether Emerald is entitled to the employer-friendly flexible work week method of calculating overtime pay under Washington state law.

Plaintiffs allege that the overtime compensation due to plaintiffs in the Ohio Consent Judgment was incorrectly calculated. The Department of Labor calculated the regular rate of pay as set forth in 29 C.F.R. § 778.109, determining that the overtime compensation due to plaintiffs was one-half the regular rate times the number of hours in excess of 40 in a work week. The federal court in Ohio, in calculating back wages, used the “fluctuating work week” method set forth in 29 C.F.R. § 778.114. This regulation allows overtime to be calculated at only half of the regular rate, rather than time and one-half the regular rate of pay under the FLSA and the MWA:

An employee employed on a salary basis may have hours of work which fluctuate from week to week and the salary may be paid him pursuant to an understanding with his employer that he will receive such fixed amount as straight time pay for whatever hours he is called upon to work in a work week whether few or many. Where the clear mutual understanding of the parties that the fixed salary is compensation (apart from overtime premiums) for the hours worked each work week, whatever the number, rather than for working 40 hours or some other fixed weekly work, such a salary arrangement is permitted by the act if the amount of the salary is sufficient to provide compensation to the employee at a rate not less than the applicable minimum wage rate for every hour worked in those work weeks in which the number of hours he works is greatest, and if he receives extra compensation, in addition to such salary, for all overtime hours worked at a rate not less than one-half his regular rate of pay. Since the salary in such a situation is intended to compensate the employee as straight time rates for whatever hours are worked in the work week, the regular rate of the employee will vary from week to week and is determined by dividing the number of hours worked in the work week into the amount of the salary to obtain the applicable hourly rate a week. Payment for overtime hours at one-half such rate in addition to the salary satisfies the overtime pay requirements because such hours have already been compensated at the straight time regular rate, under the salary arrangement.  29 C.F.R. § 778.114(a) (emphasis added).

It is undisputed that using this method would not result in a hourly rate below the statutory minimum wage, nor is there any dispute that the number of hours plaintiffs worked each week fluctuated. The parties dispute whether the “clear mutual understanding” requirement extends only to being paid a fixed weekly salary regardless of the number of hours worked, or whether it also includes an understanding that plaintiffs will be paid overtime. Likewise, the parties disagree about whether the regulation also requires that the employee actually have been contemporaneously paid overtime.

There is no Ninth Circuit case law directly interpreting this aspect of the regulation. Plaintiffs direct the Court’s attention to the district court decision in Russell v. Wells Fargo & Co., 2009 WL 3861764 (N.D.Cal.2009), while the defendant cites to Tumulty v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc., 2005 WL 1979104 (W.D.Wash). Plaintiffs argue that because Emerald was not paying its employees overtime contemporaneously throughout the period in dispute, it could have no clear understanding with the employees about overtime and the rate of overtime pay to be paid. Plaintiffs argue that because there is no “clear mutual understanding” and no contemporaneous overtime pay, the flexible work week methodology is not available to Emerald here.

Although the state law of Washington is identical to the FLSA regarding calculation of overtime using the flexible work week method, this Court must choose between two conflicting lines of federal decisions. One line of cases adopts a common sense approach that requires only that so long as the parties (employer and employee) reached a clear mutual understanding that while the employee’s hours may vary, his salary will not, then the calculation of overtime pay in a subsequent action brought under the wage laws would be half-pay for each hour over 40 in a week. These courts did not require that the employee know that he would receive overtime compensation or have actually received it contemporaneously. Clements v. Serco, Inc., 530 F.3d 1224 (10th Cir.2008); Valerio v. Putnam Assoc. Inc., 173 F.3d 35, 39-40 (1st Cir.1999); Blackman v. Brookshire Grocery Co., 835 F.2d 1135, 1138 (5th Cir.1988). If the Court follows this line of cases, the Ohio judgment will represent full compensation owed the plaintiffs and this case is at an end without further payment to plaintiffs, beyond that which has already been tendered.

The second line of cases looks more closely at the language of the applicable regulation and requires both a clear mutual understanding of the parties that the fixed salary is compensation (apart from overtime premiums) for the hours worked each work week and contemporaneous payment of overtime as earned.

Here, because Emerald did not pay plaintiffs any more for overtime hours (hours worked in excess of 40 hours each week) the flexible work week method of payment for overtime hours at half the regular rate would give way to the predominant rate of compensation at time-and-a-half. This approach has been adopted by District Courts around the country: Russell v. Wells Fargo & Co., 2009 WL 3861764 (N.D.Cal.); Scott v. OTS Inc., 2006 WL 870369, *12 (N.D.Ga.); Hunter v. Sprint Corp., 453 F.Supp.2d 44, 58-62 (D.D.C.2006); Cowen v. Treetop Enters., 163 F.Supp.2d 930, 941 (M.D.Tenn.2001); Rainey v. Am. Forest & Paper Assoc., 26 F.Supp.2d 82, 99-102 (D.D.C.1998). The Court’s review of these cases, to include Overnight Motor Transport Co. v. Missel, 316 U.S. 572 (1942), and its consideration of the background and policy of the FLSA, convinces it that the flexible work week method cannot be used to calculate overtime retroactively (where it has not been paid contemporaneously with the overtime work) for the purposes of determining damages under Washington State law. The plaintiffs are entitled to pay at the rate of time-and-a-half for every hour of overtime time worked during the period of time covered by plaintiffs’ claims.

Washington courts recognize the “persuasive authority” of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and regulations promulgated pursuant to it when construing MWA provisions that are similar to those of the FLSA. Inniss v. Tandy Corporation, 141 Wash.2d 517, 524-25, 7 P.3d 807 (2000). Both the FLSA and the MWA authorize the use of the Flexible work week methodology. 29 C.F.R. § 778.114; WAC 296-128-550.

The Washington Supreme Court has expressly found that 29 C.F.R. § 778.114 provides guidance when determining the applicability of the flexible work week method under the MWA. Inniss, 141 Wash.2d at 524-25.

29 C.F.R. § 778.114(a) sets out five prerequisites for application of the flexible work week method. Griffin v. Wake County, 142 F.3d 712, 715 (4th Cir.1998). The plain terms of 29 C.F.R. § 778.114(c) provide that unless “all the legal prerequisites” for applying the flexible work week method are present, an employer cannot avail itself of the flexible work week method for calculating overtime wages. In such cases where the flexible work week method cannot apply, the “statutory” method of multiplying the employee’s regular hourly rate by 1.5 and then by the number of hours worked over 40 in each work week is the applicable overtime pay computation method.

One of the prerequisites under 29 C.F.R. § 778.114(a) for applying the flexible work week method is payment of the mandatory 50% overtime premium contemporaneously with payment of the employee’s regular straight time pay.   Russell v. Wells Fargo & Co., 2009 Westlaw 3861764, at *3 (N.D.Cal.2009). Defendant paid plaintiffs no wages at all for the hours for which plaintiffs seek recovery of unpaid overtime wages. Defendant therefore did not satisfy the contemporaneous overtime pay prerequisite of 29 C.F.R. § 778.114(a).

Another prerequisite for the flexible work week method of overtime calculation to apply is that the employer and employee must have reached a “clear mutual understanding” at the outset of their employment relationship that the employee’s fixed salary would compensate the employee for all hours worked.   Griffin, 142 F.3d at 715. This understanding must include an understanding that the employee will be compensated for his overtime work at a rate of 50% of his regular hourly rate. Russell, 2009 Westlaw 3861764, at *5.

The parties lacked the clear mutual understanding required by 29 C.F.R. § 778.114(a) as evidenced by the fact that plaintiffs were paid nothing for the hours worked over 40 in various work weeks. If the employee receives no pay for overtime hours worked, the parties could not have understood that the employee was to be paid the requisite 50% overtime pay premium.

Defendant cannot avail itself of the flexible work week overtime pay computation method because two of the five prerequisites for application of that methodology were unsatisfied. The proper overtime pay computation method will be the statutory method described above.”

Thus, the Court concluded, since the Defendant was not entitled under the FLSA or Washington law to use the FWW to calculate the back-wages due for Plaintiffs, and the DOL consent judgment did not preempt the instant action, Plaintiffs were entitled to seek their proper time and a half damages under Washington law, notwithstanding the prior consent judgment.

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