A federal judge in California recently denied a motion by the County of Los Angeles to dismiss an unpaid overtime lawsuit involving 169,000 home health care employees. The judge ruled that the County did not qualify for immunity under the 11th Amendment because it is not an arm of the state.
The wage and hour lawsuit alleges that 169,000 employees are owed unpaid overtime wages and are affected by unfair employment practices.
County’s Request Denied in Unpaid Overtime Wages Suit
The County of Los Angeles argued that it protected by the 11th Amendment’s sovereign immunity clause due to the statutory role it plays in facilitating the state’s In-Home Supportive Services Social Welfare Program (“IHHS”). The plaintiffs, however, argue they are owed unpaid overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).
The plaintiffs, in this case, wanted the unpaid overtime wages lawsuit to include class members who were owed overtime wages after January 1, 2015. The Department of Labor had marked this date to remove an FLSA overtime exemption that previously applied to employees working within IHSS.
Litigation associated with those amended regulations put the enactment of the overtime changes at the federal level on hold, but later a DC Circuit Court ruling confirmed the decision to extend these overtime protections to individuals in the home health care work industry. Following the Circuit Court ruling, the Department of Labor announced the overtime exemption rules for IHHS workers would be enforced beginning November 12, 2015.
The County of Los Angeles argued that it should be categorized as an arm of the state because the “functions performed by the County in administering the IHHS program [were] pursuant to state law” and therefore, the County had no authority to pay IHSS workers overtime without the express consent of the state.
A five-factor test was used to determine whether the entity was an arm of the state. Ultimately the judge determined that while the County performed a central government function it was still given discretion in how it operated its local programs and the 11th amendment did not apply.
The Supreme Court stated in June of 2016 that it would not review any DC circuit court decisions associated with the extension of federal wage an hour protection to the majority of home care workers.
Employee Rights to Unpaid Overtime Wages
Employers of non-exempted workers have a responsibility to comply with state and federal rules when it comes to paying overtime. Companies must pay these employees for all hours in which the employee was under the control of the employer.
Company policies that try to avoid the payment of owed overtime may be at risk of an unpaid overtime lawsuit.
In recent years, many companies have come under fire for not considering all the circumstances in which an employee is engaged in his or her job, including requiring employees wait to clock in or out until advised by a supervisor. Employees affected by such issues may wish to talk to an employment attorney about filing an unpaid overtime wages lawsuit.
You can receive a free evaluation of your potential case from the experienced employment attorneys at Bradley/Grombacher by filling out the form on this page.