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Court Certifies Portion of Proposed Overtime Class and Declines to Certify as for Certain Classifications

When an employment class action is filed, it’s common for the motion for class certification to ask the court to include “all similarly-situated employees,” but a federal Texas judge recently refused to include employees in “similar positions” in a recent misclassification lawsuit against Anderson Perforating Services. Judge Henry J. Bemporad said the inclusion of current and former employees in “similar positions” was too broad, and therefore could not be included in the proposed class.

The class action wage and hour lawsuit was filed by Justin B., who worked for three months in early 2014 as an engineer at Anderson’s various oilfield well sites all over Texas. According to the overtime lawsuit, Justin and other engineers worked between 80 and 110 hours each week, but because they were classified as exempt from overtime, they were never paid for more than half the hours they allegedly spent working for Anderson.

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines overtime as any time spent working after eight hours a day or forty hours a week. It also requires employers to pay all their workers a higher wage (one and one-half times their normal hourly wage) for all the overtime they spend working. The FLSA does allow certain classes of employees to be held exempt from the requirement for overtime compensation, but it is very specific about the kinds of employees who qualify for this exemption.

Under the FLSA employees can be classified as overtime exempt if they fit into one of three categories: administrative, executive, and professional. In order to qualify for the administrative category, an employee must perform primarily office work and provide administrative assistance directly to an executive. For the executive category, an employee must spend the majority of their time managing at least two other employees and have direct say in the hiring and firing of the employees they manage. The professional category consists of anyone whose job requires them to have a particular set of skills or level of education, such as doctors, lawyers, and performers. As long as employees make a salary of at least $23,600 a year and fit into one of the above categories, they are not entitled to overtime compensation.

Justin alleged the work he and the other engineers did for Anderson did not qualify them for the overtime exemption under the FLSA. In his ruling, Judge Bemporad said the law does not require the jobs of the class members to be identical in order to qualify for class certification, but the plaintiffs do need to be able to provide evidence that the jobs they perform are sufficiently similar to justify certification of the class. Because the Judge said Justin did not do this when asking to include “other similar positions” in his class, Bemporad refused to include that group in his certification.

Another part of the class certification process is that the parties must be able to agree on how to contact the potential class members. Anderson had objections to the form notice the plaintiffs had drafted to be sent to potential class members and Judge Bemporad instructed the parties to attempt to come to an agreement outside of court.

The Chicago class action and employment law 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 Arlington Heights and Mount Prospect. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.

Our Bollingbrook and Naperville overtime and employment 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 Oak Brook, and represents clients throughout the country who have unpaid overtime and other employment right claims.