How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Law Educator, Esq. Your Own Question
Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Business Law
Satisfied Customers: 116712
Experience:  All corporate law, including non-profits and charitable fraternal organizations.
Type Your Business Law Question Here...
Law Educator, Esq. is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

I was a blue collar employee working full-time for a company

Customer Question

I was a blue collar employee working full-time for a company traveling around the USA installing their hardware in buildings. From the beginning of my employment I was incorrectly deemed "exempt" from overtime wages. The company I worked for was 100% for sure breaking the FSLA rules shorting me overtime. I'm was in fact a "non-exempt" employee being paid a basic salary. The company would tacitly expect that I work 50-70 hour weeks, but only pay me a weekly base salary. Again, I will repeat: I have read all the rules and test, I for am non-exempt. All the work I did for this company was traveling via airplane from home to a job site in various states and back. So, my labor was actually performed in multiple states ranging from some with overtime state laws like California to states like Alabama that have no state overtime laws and instead rely on the federal FSLA laws. So, I am owed about $20,000 in shorted overtime in multiple states. About $15,000 of this is in 4 states that have overtime laws. My Question is this: what would happen if I sued for my specific overtime of $15,000 in small claims in each of the 4 states with overtime laws. For example: $5000, $6000, $4000, $5000. I could hail the company into 4 different small claims courts for the overtime plus penalty amount to a total of $30,000 and create quite the nuisance as we all know is the basis for most court cases whether lawyers want to admit that or not. One lawyer has warned me about doing this referencing res judicata. I understand this warning and why if I were to try to sue in 4 county small claims courts and then later in one federal court case. this would be a bad idea because of res judicata law, but my question is: do you think I could successfully win my cases in 4 separate small claims courts where they have state overtime laws and penalties for withholding it like California does. Again, my overtime case is solid in each state. This is easily provable, but what I am worried is that the company will somehow come up with a defense to the OT case in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th small claims court. Because it's such a small amount divided into 4 counties, in 4 different states, I cannot see why I should be afraid to do this. Can anyone tell me why without speculating this wouldn't work to shake my overtime money out of this company. yeah, because if I turn this over to a lawyer in one federal case the lawyer wants 40%, so that is why I would like to just get some of my money through 4 small claims cases for the specific labor performed in those 4 states only. Thank you.
Submitted: 9 months ago.
Category: Business Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 9 months ago.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.
You can do what you suggest, but then you would be running to all of the different states going to court. Actually, there is a simpler process and you are actually entitled to at least double what you are owed (the wages due plus liquidated damages equal to wages owed you) under the FLSA. You can actually file a complaint with the US Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division for the wages due, the misclassification and the liquidated damages. Alternatively, you can even file this in US District Court as it is a federal FLSA claim and they have jurisdiction and seek your wages, liquidated damages plus attorney's fees as provided for under the FLSA.
So you have better alternatives than simply running to 4 different states and if you do not want to pay a lawyer, you need no lawyer to go through the US Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division.
Please do not forget to leave positive feedback by clicking on the 5 stars at the top of your page , as the experts are not employees of the site and get no credit for spending time with customers unless they leave positive feedback. Thank you.
Customer: replied 9 months ago.
Thank you. But I'm thinking deep and long because the federal wage hour division cannot collect. They can point, ask for punishment, even fine. I'm looking for the illusion of a major nuisance in 4 states and a quick settlement payment in the initial small claims order for ADR. It would be at ADR I tell them here is my claim and I believe 4 judges will agree with me in 4 states. Hopefully they will pay then before I go to the next staye and file, because remember they have to go to those state cases too or call in on a call and hire a legal adviser in each state. Do you see any pitfall for me suing in 4 different small claims court so long as I keep the claims isolated to those states?
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 9 months ago.
Thank you for your reply.
They can settle a case and can indeed collect on behalf of the employees, they do it every day, in addition to fining the employer. The US Department of Labor deals with these cases daily.
If you want to go to 4 different states and travel back and forth, since the wage violations are separate claims in each of those states you can do so, but it is a lot of travel and work when there are easier methods. Also, when you discuss with any employment attorney regarding fees, you need to discuss the FLSA right to collect attorney's fees from the employer for not properly paying wages, because you may not end up owing the attorney representing you, the employer would.