How High Can An Employer’s Liability Be Under The FLSA?

Posted by: Brookside Admin

Under the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act), employers are required to pay their employees for the time that they spend working, including time that they are working through their normal breaks and lunch breaks. For employers that have time keeping software that automatically deducts break times from an employee’s paycheck, this can be a train wreck if employees are regularly working through their lunch or other breaks. 

If a lawsuit is filed against an employer under the FLSA, it might seem that they can only get back a few hours of lost lunch time right? Wrong. The FLSA can actually pile up the liability on an employer in many different areas. Here are some of these areas where an employer can find liability stacking up sky high:

Most FLSA cases involve multiple employees who are making the same claim. If you have several employees that are claiming they have had to work through their lunch breaks for several months, then the amount owed just for those missing hours can add up quickly.
The majority of FLSA cases also involve a lengthy period of time, not just a day or two. When you consider that you have multiple employees with multiple hours per week for years, it adds up extremely fast.
When an employee is not paid for a meal break, they are not simply paid their normal hourly wage for it. If they worked their 40 hours that week, then they will be paid at their overtime rate.
With an FLSA case, employees are usually awarded “liquidated damages”, which is equal to the amount of unpaid wages. So on top of their missed hours which are paid at their overtime rate, they are also paid this same amount again in damages.
Employers are normally required to pay the employees legal fees as well as any other costs that they have had to bear to bring the case to court.

So as you can easily see, these cases can add up extremely quickly. Here is a recent example of an FLSA case to illustrate the way the different damages and other areas stack up:

In California federal court, Martinez V. Air Express International USA, Inc., Case No. 2:12-cv-02994, was filed by the employees of Air Express for violating the FLSA several different ways – such as deducting lunch break time automatically from employees’ hours that they did not take. Just recently, the court granted a preliminary approval of the proposed $1.75 million dollar settlement, of which $1,098,667 will be distributed among the 304 employees in the suit. Each employee will get an average of $3,615.84, which is for 248 weeks of wages that were unpaid at $14.58 per week, per employee. The remainder of the settlement is for over $580,000 in legal fees as well as other costs. This is a perfect illustration of how automatic deduction of break time can compile fast when an employer does not follow the FLSA.

If you are working through your breaks and not getting paid for the time you are putting in, contact our law firm today for a free consultation. (918) 582 – 2500

Curious about the difference between a tip and a service charge? Make sure you read our article “Tip Versus Service Charge: What’s The Difference?”

Articles on are not intended to take the place of professional legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact our offices for a free consultation at (918) 582 – 2500.