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Courts look to the "economic realities" of the employment relationship in determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor.
Best Behavioral Healthcare is a mental health provider for individuals with special needs and Amarilis LaFontaine is a doctor and the president and CEO of BBH. Ramon Jimenez worked as a psychotherapist at BBH from October 27, 2016 until April 10, 2017. During Mr. Jimenez's approximately six months working at BBH, he estimated that he worked eight hours a day, five days a week, with another four to six hours on weekends. Although the BBH Employee Manual placed limitations on when employees could—or could not—leave work, BBH in practice did not keep track of Mr. Jimenez's comings and goings and did not require nor permit Mr. Jimenez to clock in or out. Mr. Jimenez paid his own insurance premiums during the time he worked at BBH. Dr. LaFontaine was Mr. Jimenez's supervisor at BBH. Dr. LaFontaine hired Mr. Jimenez and signed or authorized most of Mr. Jimenez's onboarding paperwork. During her time as Mr. Jimenez's supervisor, Dr. LaFontaine disciplined Mr. Jimenez on several occasions for taking incomplete notes during appointments. Mr. Jimenez also routinely turned in his appointment notes late. According to Dr. LaFontaine and other BBH employees, BBH did not pay Mr. Jimenez because of the issues with his session notes. Dr. LaFontaine eventually terminated Mr. Jimenez because of those same issues. Mr. Jimenez never received any payment from BBH. Both Mr. Jimenez on the one hand and BBH and Dr. LaFontaine on the other move for summary judgment. Mr. Jimenez argues first that BBH is an enterprise covered by the FLSA. The defendants do not submit any argument rebutting that the FLSA applies. Likewise, Mr. Jimenez argues that Dr. LaFontaine is an "individual employer" under the FLSA—triggering FLSA liability individually—a designation to which neither BBH nor Dr. LaFontaine objects.
Should Mr. Jimenez be classified as an employee entitled to back pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act?
The court held that the question of whether, under the FLSA, a plaintiff is an independent contractor or an employee is a question of law for the Court. Because the Supreme Court has "consistently construed" the FLSA "liberally to apply to the furthest reaches consistent with congressional direction, recognizing that broad coverage is essential to accomplish the Act's goal." As a result, courts look to the "economic realities" of the employment relationship in determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contract. Looking to the economic realities, the Court concludes that Mr. Jimenez was effectively an employee and is entitled to $8,170.75 in back pay. Separately, the Court concludes that summary judgment is improper on Mr. Jimenez's Pennsylvania Wage Payment Collection Law claim.