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9th Circuit Raises Pleading Burden for Wage and Hour FLSA

Plaintiffs that file a class action lawsuit (or any lawsuit, for that matter) have a certain burden of proof they have to meet in order for them to be able to argue their case in court. The Ninth Circuit Court recently made a ruling in a class action wage and hour lawsuit that raises the burden of proof for plaintiffs to be able to argue their case in court. Rather than just claiming the defendant violated one or more labor laws, the appellate court now requires plaintiffs to provide specific instances of violations by naming a particular week in which they worked more than 40 hours and were not properly paid for that extra time.

The Ninth Circuit Court’s recent ruling upheld a motion to dismiss a class action wage and hour lawsuit in Landers v. Quality Communication Inc., in which the plaintiffs alleged the cable installation company failed to pay all minimum wages and overtime to its workers. In dismissing the class action, the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling falls in line with similar rulings recently made by the First, Second, and Third Circuit Courts, creating what looks to be a trend in the courts in favor of employers.

The circuit courts aren’t the only ones who have been issuing rulings in favor of defendants in class action lawsuits lately. In its ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court cited two rulings made by the Supreme Court in 2007 and 2009, both of which also placed a higher burden of proof on plaintiffs before allowing the case to proceed to discovery.

Attorneys who defend employers in wage and hour litigation are pleased with the appellate court’s ruling in the Landers case, as it could mean good news for many of their clients, particularly those working under the Ninth Circuit Court’s jurisdiction. Because the Ninth Circuit Court can be influential in the rulings of other courts, wage and hour defense attorneys feel confident that this trend in their favor will continue across the country.

Attorneys representing plaintiffs in wage and hour lawsuits are less optimistic about the implications of the new ruling. While some say it doesn’t change much, they point out the ruling created a new provision, without any reason or explanation for that provision. It may be just a bare minimum for the case to proceed to discovery, but a lack of explanation makes the ruling appear arbitrary. Others claim that, since the records necessary to prove time worked and wages paid are normally held by the defendant, putting the burden of proof on the plaintiff early in the case may be unduly harsh in some instances.

This string of new rulings in favor of class action defendants falls in line with the 2008 Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), which was also designed to make things easier for defendants involved in class action lawsuits. Under the CAFA, defendants can move to have class action lawsuits relocated to federal court if the lawsuit meets certain requirements, including a sufficiently large class, claims involving more than $5 million, and a large enough fraction of class members from states other than the state the lawsuit was filed in. The Act was designed to prevent plaintiffs from “forum shopping”, or filing their case in the court they know would be most favorable to their side.The attorneys at Chicago Overtime Law Center have decades of experience litigating wage and hour cases, including overtime, vacation pay, meal breaks, and tips. We have offices conveniently located in Oak Brook and Chicago, Illinois. Contact the Berwyn and Cicero unpaid overtime lawyers and attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center today at 312-869-4095. We are looking to represent loan and mortgage brokers who have not been paid overtime and have been mis-classified as managers.