FLSA Pleading Standard Is Specific But Not Strict, Says Court of Appeals

The New York Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has issued new guidance on how to properly plead wage and hour claims against employers. On October 16, 2023 the Court in Abbott v. Comme Des Garcons, Ltd. reversed a district court decision that required an excessively strict level of detail in pleading overtime claims, ruling that so long as Plaintiffs allege that they worked more than forty hours per week as part of their regularly scheduled workweek, they have adequately stated a claim under the FLSA and need not list the specific workweeks during which they worked more than forty hours.

The Plaintiffs in Abbott were retail employees who worked over forty hours per week but were allegedly improperly classified as managers exempt from overtime pay premiums. Plaintiffs alleged their regularly scheduled work hours consisted of five shifts each week, and that each shift lasted between eight and three-quarter hours and nine hours, amounting to between 43.75 hours and 45 hours of work per regular week. After filing suit, the district court granted a motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ claims, finding that the lawsuit was “long on generalities and short on specifics.” Specifically, the Court found that there were “gaps in the factual allegations” such as a failure to allege how often or for how long the Plaintiffs were required to work during lunch breaks and that it “required inference upon inference to arrive at the conclusion that any given Plaintiff worked more than forty hours during at least one week when that Plaintiff was improperly classified as exempt.”

On appeal the Second Circuit reversed the dismissal, finding that the district court required an excessively strict level of detail in bringing overtime claims. Restating prior case law, the Second Circuit instructed that stating FLSA overtime claims with specificity required alleging forty hours of work in a given workweek as well as some uncompensated time in excess of the forty hours and that ”[n]othing more is required.” Plaintiffs’ allegations that they worked shifts amounting to between 43.75 and 45 hours of work each week, the Court viewed, itself brought the complaint beyond forty hours in any given work week, and therefore to a plausible claim of overtime. Any requirement that a Plaintiff must identify each week that they worked their regular schedule would require excessive specificity, generating “voluminous, tedious complaints” and force plaintiffs to record their work schedules with a level of precision at odds with the Courts’ recognition that employees are not required to keep careful records and plead their hours with mathematical precision in FLSA cases.

Bringing claims for unpaid wages in court can be more complicated than it seems. If you believe you may be owed wages by an employer, speak to an experienced wage and hour attorney as soon as possible to discuss potential next steps.

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About Shawn R. Clark

Shawn Clark's practice is focused on employment litigation. Shawn is an Associate in the firm's New York office.

Tags: faruqi & faruqi, faruqi law, faruqi blog, faruqilaw, Shawn Clark, employment litigation, workers' rights, employee rights, FLSA, unpaid overtime, unpaid OT Shawn R. Clark Shawn R. Clark
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