For what today's case lacks in juicy facts, it
makes up for in practical legal impact. In Dionne v. Floormasters Enterprises, Inc., 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 15560 (11th Cir.
July 28, 2011), the Eleventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of a wage and hour
collective action claim brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act after
Defendant tendered the full amount claimed for by the class representative of
the Plaintiff class. Defendant then filed a motion in the lower court
requesting dismissal of the case as moot. The lower court agreed,
dismissing the case without awarded attorney's fees to Plaintiff due to the
lack of a "judgment" as required by the statute. The Eleventh Circuit
agreed after doing an analysis on the FLSA's language.
Sounds like no big deal, right? Well, this can have
a potentially huge impact on FLSA cases and how they are litigated. The
FLSA is a statute aimed at protecting certain workers from missing out on
overtime pay and, to a lesser extent, minimum wage violations. A
prevailing Plaintiff is entitled to recover their attorney's fees. In the
typical case, the actual injury to the Plaintiff pales in comparison to the
amount of fees their attorney racks up. For instance, a typical FLSA case
occurs when a factory worker is not compensated for time off the clock spent
putting on their uniform, something that may take something like 2-3 minutes
per day. Add these violations up over a year and they may be out like
The attorneys' fees drive the cases, and so
unsurprisingly the attorneys are more invested than their clients. In
fact, most FLSA cases are initiated through attorneys investigating an employer
rather than a normal client seeking out counsel believing they are the victim
of injustice. In Dionne, the defendant dealt a kill shot right off
the bat by paying the relatively nominal damage claim ($3,000). I am
frankly surprised the courts allowed it but hopefully it reduces the amount of
these claims, as they make up a substantial percentage of the cases on federal
court dockets, particularly in Florida.
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