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Fair Labor Standards Act/Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act

Robert Hendricks v. Total Quality Logistics LLC, Case No. 1:10-cv-649 (S.D. Ohio, March 11, 2011): Plaintiffs consisted of a group of former employees who claim they were not paid overtime wages as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Ohio wage law. The plaintiffs asserted class action status under the Ohio wage law and a collective action under the FLSA. The defendant moved to dismiss the state class action claim because it would work an "end-around" the FLSA's opt-in requirement. As explained by the defendant, the FLSA expressly prohibits a plaintiff from asserting a FLSA claim for overtime compensation on behalf of a class of similarly-situated employees who fail to opt into the claim. On the other hand, the Ohio class action claim includes similarly-situated persons who fail to opt out of the Ohio class but refuse to opt into the FLSA claim. Defendants contend that permitting plaintiffs to assert both types of claims thwarts the Congressional intent in creating the opt-in requirement for the FLSA. Plaintiffs, however, cite to multiple decisions where federal courts permitted both Fair Labor Standards Act opt-in claims and state law wage opt-out claims to proceed in the same action.

The district court denied defendants' motion to dismiss the state wage class action claim and permitted the plaintiffs to go forward with both the federal opt-in and state opt-out claims. First, the court reasoned that the presence of an express savings clause in the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. 218(a), had the effect of preserving state statutes similar to the Ohio wage law. The court's found that the presence of this provision undercuts any concern that allowing the state opt-out claim to go forward would thwart Congressional purposes. Second, the court concluded that the defendants did not point to any definite and concrete case management difficulties creating exceptional circumstances for the court to decline supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claim. Although the court acknowledged that there may be a risk that the plaintiffs may be confused by their difficult choices to opt into the federal claim, and opt out of the state law claim, the risk was not minimized by severing the state law claim.

For these reasons, the district court denied defendants' motion to dismiss the purported state class action claim.  Contact one of our employment attorneys if you have any questions about this decision or how this case may affect an employment issue you are experiencing.

By: Merl H. Wayman

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