While employees being made to work off the clock is a serious issue that needs to be addressed, one must be careful about how it is addressed. A plaintiff bringing a complaint of this sort may have a case for missed wages and for performing work-related tasks for which they were never paid, but filing allegations that their employer paid them less than the federally mandated minimum wage may not always be advisable, depending.
While some employees have managed to achieve settlements, or even court rulings in their favor when claiming missed wages, two recent wage and hour lawsuits against SkyWest Airlines have just been dismissed.
The class action lawsuits were filed by Andrea Hirst and Cheryl Tapp, both of whom worked for SkyWest from 2010 until 2015. They filed separate lawsuits against their former employee, alleging they had been paid less than minimum wage because of all the off-the-clock work they had allegedly performed without pay.
While SkyWest claims it pays each flight attendant no less than $17 per hour, that rate was allegedly only paid for the time flight attendants spent on the airplane with the cabin door closed. That meant they were not paid for any of the allegedly necessary tasks they performed before the cabin door was closed and after it was opened. These tasks included cleaning up after customers, clearing airport security, and reading and responding to emails with essential information regarding their upcoming flights. According to the lawsuits, when taking into account the extra hours flight attendants spent working for SkyWest, their wages allegedly fell below $7.25 per hour – the federal minimum wage an eligible, hourly worker can be paid while working in the United States.
There’s just one problem.
Hirst and Tapp were unable to provide evidence showing how much off-the-clock work they had performed. They asked for a court order for SkyWest to be made to release its records regarding how much time the flight attendants had spent working before and after their shifts, but Judge John. J. Tharp Jr. said that wasn’t enough. Having already allowed for a pretrial discovery, Judge Tharp said if the plaintiffs couldn’t use the information they already had at their disposal to support their argument, he was not convinced pursuing the legal dispute further would help their case, or be the best use of time and resources for the court.
Judge Tharp had already dismissed the wage and hour lawsuits once but had allowed the plaintiffs to amend their complaints and reintroduce them to the court. The plaintiffs did so, but Judge Tharp said their amended complaints were still not enough to show they had a case. The plaintiffs still could not provide evidence of how many off-the-clock hours they had worked, which meant they could not prove they had been paid less than minimum wage for all the time they had spent working. As a result, he had both cases dismissed with prejudice.
Had Hirst and Tapp filed a lawsuit for unpaid work, they may have had better luck being able to provide sufficient evidence to support their allegations under the relevant employment laws.
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, DoubleTree, 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, Chili’s, 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 Glenellyn and Naperville. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.
Our St. Charles, Elmhurst and Bollingbrook 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.