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D.N.J.: Defendants’ Purported Use Of Fluctuating Workweek (FWW) Violated FLSA, Because They Did Not Pay Plaintiffs A “Fixed Amount As Straight Time Pay”
Adeva v. Intertek USA, Inc.
This case was before the Court on the parties respective Motions for Summary Judgment on a variety of issues. Significantly, the Defendants purported to pay Plaintiffs under a Fluctuating Workweek methodology, pursuant to 29 C.F.R. §778.114. Granting Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court rejected this claim, holding that since Defendants failed to pay Plaintiffs a “fixed amount as straight time pay” each week, the pay methodology at issue violated the FLSA.
In framing the issue, the Court stated, “[t]he essential question is whether Defendants paid Plaintiffs on a proper Fluctuating Workweek (‘FWW’) method pursuant to 29 C.F.R. § 778.114(a). Defendants pay Plaintiffs a percentage of their annual salary, and, if eligible, ‘day off pay,’ ‘off shore pay,’ and ‘holiday pay.’ Plaintiff alleges that because of such special payments, Defendants cannot demonstrate that the amount paid each week was “fixed.” A “fixed amount as straight time pay” is necessary to apply the FWW under the Fair Labor Standards Act. 29 C.F.R. § 778.114(a).”
Reasoning that the pay method at issue did not comply with the FLSA, the Court discussed the general principles of the FLSA and the specific pre-requisites for application of the FWW.
“29 U.S.C. § 207(a) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) requires the payment of overtime compensation “at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate.” The fluctuating workweek method (“FWW”) provides an alternative for calculating overtime premiums when certain conditions are met. In short, to apply the FWW method, Defendants must demonstrate that:
1) Plaintiffs’ hours fluctuate from week to week, 2) Plaintiffs receive a fixed salary that does not vary with the number of hours worked during each workweek (excluding overtime premiums), 3) the fixed amount received by Plaintiffs provides compensation every week at a regular rate that is at least equal to the minimum wage, and 4) that Defendants and Plaintiffs share a ‘clear mutual understanding’ that Defendants will pay that fixed salary regardless of the number of hours worked. 29 C.F.R. § 778.114(a); O’Brien v. Town of Agawam, 350 F.3d 279, 288 (1st Cir.2003); Flood v. New Hanover, 125 F.3d 249, 252 (4th Cir.1997).
The essential question before the Court is whether Defendants have met the prerequisites for applying the FWW method. The Court is not convinced that Defendants pay Plaintiffs “a fixed salary that does not vary with the number of hours worked during each workweek (excluding overtime premiums).” 29 C.F.R. § 778.114(a). The record demonstrates that Plaintiffs’ compensation for non-overtime hours varied, depending upon earned offshore pay, holiday pay or day-off pay. The Court is convinced that due to such payments, Plaintiffs cannot receive the fixed salary required to apply the FWW. See, e.g., O’Brien, 350 F.3d at 288 (holding that a ten-dollar night-shift increase precluded application of the FWW); Ayers v. SGS Control Services, Inc., 2007 WL 646326 (S.D.N.Y.2007) (holding “any Plaintiff who received sea pay or day-off pay did not have fixed weekly straight time pay, in violation of 29 C.F.R. § 778.114(a).”); Dooley v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, 369 F.Supp.2d 81, 86 (D.Mass.2005) (holding that payment of a premium rate for weekend work precludes application of the FWW).
Most recently, the Southern District of New York was faced with the identical issue currently before this Court. Ayers, 2007 WL 646326. In granting summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs, that Court held that because plaintiffs received sea-pay and day-off pay, their salaries were not fixed, consequently precluding usage of the FWW method of payment. Id. at 8-9. In rendering its decision, the Ayers court relied on the O’Brien and Dooley decisions. In O’Brien, the First Circuit noted that the plain text of § 778.114 requires payment of a “fixed amount as straight time pay for whatever hours he is called upon to work in a workweek, whether few or many.” O’Brien, 350 F.3d at 288. Guided by the statutory language, the Court held that workers who received additional compensation (in the form of a $10 shift differential payment) could not have received a fixed amount as required under § 778.114. Id. at 289;see also Dooley, 369 F.Supp.2d 81, 86 (holding that payment of a premium rate for weekend work precludes application of the FWW). The sea-pay, day-off pay, night-shift pay and weekend-pay analyzed in the Ayers, O’Brien and Dooley decisions are nearly identical to the types of payments received by Plaintiffs in this case. Clearly, the payment of differentials such as sea-pay differential or increased pay for working a “night-shift,” means that employees are not being paid a “fixed” salary regardless of hours worked. Instead, the salary fluctuates, based upon whether the employee is or is not receiving “sea-pay” or “night-shift pay.” If the regulation merely required that employees received a minimum salary every week, which could be increased by such bonuses, then Defendants’ argument would have substantial force. The regulation, however, contains no such thing. Consequently, the Court holds that Defendants are precluded from using the FWW method of payment as such premiums and bonuses run afoul of the “fixed salary” requirement of 29 C.F.R. § 778.114(a). Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment is granted, in part, as Defendants’ FWW compensation methodology violates the FLSA.”
Although not discussed here, the Court granted Defendants’ Cross Motion, in part, holding that Defendants’ FLSA violation(s) were not willful. To read more about the case click here.