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Appellate Court Reverses Dismissal of Casino Worker Unpaid Overtime Case Relating to Attending Training Courses Before Casino Opened

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay their workers for all the work they perform, but sometimes the definition of what activities qualify as “work” gets a little fuzzy. Generally, any time employees devote to activities that ultimately benefit their employer is considered time for which they should be compensated under the FLSA.

One of the areas in which this can get a little tricky is the time workers spend in training. Employers already invest a fair amount of time and money in hiring new employees. They have to take the time or pay someone to sift through résumés and conduct interviews. Once a candidate has been selected, even experienced workers usually require a certain amount of training to familiarize them with the way their new employer does things.

Employers generally pay for this training time, but it’s not always easy to tell where to draw the line. Although some employers have programs that help their workers pay for their continuing education, it’s not required by law. So the question becomes where should the line be drawn between education and training?

According to a proposed class action lawsuit against Maryland Live! Casino, the company allegedly violated the FLSA by failing to pay potential employees for a 12-week training course in table games the workers participated in prior to the casino’s opening in 2013.

The courses were offered by a so-called dealer school, which was set up by Maryland Live! and advertised as a joint venture between the casino and a local community college. The courses occupied 20 hours a week for 12 weeks, of which participants were only paid for the final two days.

The wage and hour lawsuit was filed by three students who allege they should have been paid for all the time they invested in the training course. A Maryland district court dismissed the case, saying the plaintiffs had failed to state their claims as employees under the FLSA, but the Fourth Circuit Court has recently revived the proposed class action lawsuit.

According to the appellate court, the plaintiffs deserve at least the opportunity to present evidence of their claims in a discovery proceeding before the case can be dismissed. In its published opinion, the circuit court’s panel compared the plaintiffs’ situation to waiters learning the ropes before the opening of a restaurant or hairdressers getting their license before a salon opens.

The casino argued that the benefit conferred to the employer from the time spent in training could be determined just by examining the plaintiffs’ complaint, but the Fourth Circuit Court rejected that claim.

The district court initially dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims, saying the casino could not have materially benefited from the time the students invested in the training courses because the jobs they were training for did not exist at the time they were enrolled in the courses. But the circuit court refuted that statement by pointing out the casino benefited by having a large, trained workforce of employees ready to start manning tables on its opening day. The circuit court also pointed to the plaintiffs claim that the training they received was unique to Maryland Live! and not transferrable to other casinos.

The Chicago class action lawyers at the Chicago Overtime Law Center are investigating unpaid overtime claims by waiters and bus boys and other restaurant and hotel workers against national restaurant chains including Hilton, W, Marriott, Sheraton, Holiday Inn, Extended Stay America, Staybridge Suites, Best Western, HomeTown Buffet, Old Country Buffet, Applebees, Chipotle, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Cracker Barrel, Outback Steak House, Taco Bell, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Wendy’s and hotels for mis-classifying employees as managers or assistant managers, forcing employees to work off the clock at business, failing to share all tips, erasing or altering time sheets or time records, pressuring workers not to report or record overtime, and otherwise failing to pay workers for overtime and other wages. If you are the victim these wage theft practices call us at (312) 869-4095 or contact us online.

The Chicago class action attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have three decades of experience fighting to help employees who are victims of wage, overtime and tip theft by their employers. We have a team of Chicago unpaid overtime lawyers who concentrate on prosecuting state and nationwide class action lawsuits. Our attorneys work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices and pursue claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Cicero, Stone Park and Melrose Park. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.

Our Lincolnshire and Gurnee overtime lawyers are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers mis-classify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages.

The Chicago Overtime Law Center is based in Chicago, and represents clients throughout the country who have unpaid overtime and other employment right claims.