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Northern District Judge Finds That the FLSA Does Not Prevent Plaintiffs from Filing Lawsuits Under State Claims in Smith v. Family Video Movie Club

Previously, this blog has discussed the issue of preemption. Preemption occurs when a federal law and a state law conflict — in this case, the federal law always preempts, or overrides, the state law. For example, in a previous case, when a federal labor law conflicted with a state wage and hour law, the federal law had to be applied. The same would be true of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Problems occur when it is unclear whether federal and state laws conflict, or how much they would need to conflict for preemption to take place. If you have a wage and hour dispute and are not sure whether your claim is under federal or state law, contact an Illinois wage and hour attorney.

In Smith v. Family Video Movie Club, the plaintiffs sued defendant for violating the Illinois Minimum Wage Law (IMWL) — as well as similar laws in Michigan and Iowa — and the FLSA. The plaintiffs worked in the defendant’s various movie and video game rental stores, where they claim that they were required to perform work while not on the clock. This included assisting customers, opening and closing the stores, working on inventory, stocking the shelves, making bank deposits, and cleaning and maintenance. Although the plaintiffs were paid an hourly wage, they received no overtime compensation. Plaintiffs sought to be able to sue defendant in a class action. Meanwhile, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that the chain’s overtime compensation rate met the exemptions for Michigan’s Minimum Wage Law (MMWL), and that the FLSA preempted the IMWL and Iowa’s provisions for forming a class action.

Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan looked at the various laws at issue. He granted the dismissal for the Michigan overtime complaint under the MMWL because the MMWL did not have explicit provisions permitting plaintiffs to pursue their right to overtime wages, and plaintiffs were already pursuing their rights to overtime under the FLSA. At the same time, the judge found that the FLSA did not preempt provisions of the MMWL or the IMWL with regard to a class action lawsuit. The defendants had tried to argue that the FLSA provisions for a class action suit expressly preempted class action claims brought by plaintiffs under state law. For a federal law to expressly preempt, it would need to state explicitly “that it overrides state or local law.” Judge Der-Yeghiayan found that courts had ruled previously that bringing a class action lawsuit under the FLSA did not preclude bringing a class action under a state law claim via Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a). Therefore, plaintiffs could still form a class action under state law even if federal law was also violated. The judge denied the defendant’s motion to strike class allegations.

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 Oakbrook Terrace and Chicago, Illinois. Contact a Cicero wage and hour lawyer at the Chicago Overtime Law Center today at 312-869-4095.