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Friday, September 7, 2018

Getting FLSA Wrong Can Be Costly


Forty-Four employees of HMR of Alabama, Inc. worked for HMR located in Alexander City, Alabama, comprised of thirty-three certified nursing assistants or “CNAs”; three are licensed practical nurses or “LPNs”; and eight hold dual positions, such as “CNA/Concierge” and “Driver/Driver Coordinator.” In August 2016 they filed a joint complaint in Federal Court making claims for overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C.§ 201, claiming that they had worked without compensation during their meal breaks for the past six years (2,089 weeks total).

HMR Veterans Services, Inc. has been serving Veterans in State Veterans Homes for nearly two decades with homes it manages for the state veterans’ administrations in the four states of Alabama, Texas, South Carolina and Maryland, based upon its website. They claim to be the gold standard of partnering with state veteran home services.

The employees claimed that they routinely worked more than 40 hours per week without full compensation because HMR deducted meal breaks from their pay even when they were not “completely relieved from duty.” They state that during meal breaks they were required to “care for patient needs” and “tend to patients,” and they provide each employee’s specific job title and list the weeks each employee claims to have worked more than 40 hours. Compensable work under the FLSA includes any activity that is a “principal activity” or “integral and indispensable to the principal activities that an employee is employed to perform.” A detailed description of the exact acts each plaintiff performed during meal times is not required to pursue an FLSA claim.

On Thursday the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta Ordered that their case be sent back for trial and that the employees need not give a detailed description of their lunch time activities to pursue an FLSA claim.  The Court Order showed three well know Alabama law firms representing the employees. Attorney fees are routinely awarded under the FLSA and can be substantial. 



Common Sense Counsel: There are several FLSA Compensable Time Issues That Can Trip You Up Big Time! The FLSA clearly defines what qualifies as compensable time. Do the following count?

-          Waiting time
-          On-call time
-          Rest and meal periods
-          Sleeping time
-          Lectures
-          Meetings and training programs
-          Travel time
-          Meal time
-          After hour emails/text messages

Problems occur when employers fail to have legally defensible handbook policies, employee sign-offs and notices, and supervisors trained to recognize and count certain hours worked as compensable time. Getting it wrong can be costly.

Click here to access the full 44 employees v HMR docket.

Tommy Eden is a partner working out of the Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP offices in Opelika, AL and can be contacted at teden@constangy.com or 334-246-2901. Blog at www.alabamaatwork.com with link to case.