In 2008, three cable installation technicians filed a lawsuit alleging that their employer, a large telecommunications company, violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by failing to pay them for worked overtime hours. The company used a “piece-rate” wage system, where techs earned a set amount of pay for each job completed. While the FLSA permits employers to pay workers by this way, the law still requires businesses to compensate piece-rate employees for overtime hours at a rate of 0.5 times standard pay.
Monroe v. FTS USA, LLC – Judge Awarded $3.8 million
The plaintiffs’ complaint in Monroe v. FTS USA, LLC alleged that their managers were instructed by company executives to deliberately alter employee timesheets and pressure technicians against recording extra worked hours. The case eventually expanded into a class action suit involving 296 similarly situated technicians. At trial in U.S. District Court, a jury returned a verdict for the employees, finding that they had consistently worked more than 40 hours weekly without being paid overtime. A judge awarded the class of technicians $3.8 million in owed wages.
Supreme Court Reviews Class Action Lawsuits
As the cable company began appealing the judge’s verdict, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decided a case in December 2016 that changed the rules of class action lawsuits. In Tyson v. Bouaphakeo, SCOTUS held that a court may use representative statistical evidence to certify a class action if an individual plaintiff could have just as easily relied on the same evidence in an individual suit. In light of this decision, SCOTUS asked the Sixth Circuit to reevaluate the Monroe case. The question was whether, under Tyson’s new standard, the 296 technicians still qualified as a single class; if not, the entire case would have to be thrown out, and the techs would be forced to bring their suits either individually or in small groups.
Sixth Circuit panel upholds Single Class
Upon reexamination, a Sixth Circuit panel held on June 21 that SCOTUS’s new ruling had not changed the case’s outcome. The majority found that under Tyson’s new rules, the technicians were still similar enough to bring their suit as a single class. This decision was reaffirmed on Friday, July 31 when the company’s petition for a rehearing en banc was denied.
The case is now headed back to District Court, where the presiding judge needs to recalculate the $3.8 million damage award; that number was erroneously determined using a 1.5-times multiplier for overtime hours. The correct overtime multiplier for piece-rate workers is 0.5 times the regular rate of pay. Thus, although the cable techs may soon have their damages reduced, they finally appear poised to receive the overtime pay they deserve after surviving quite a scare from the Supreme Court.