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Second Circuit Relaxes The Pleading Standard For FLSA Actions

On Behalf of | Nov 2, 2023 | Employment Law

Retail employees at a luxury store in New York City were deemed by the Second Circuit to have adequately stated a wage claim when they said they regularly worked more than 40 hours per week without specifying the exact weeks in which they worked overtime.

The case is Herrera v. Comme des Garçons Ltd., 2d Cir., No. 22-01962, October 16, 2023.

Initially, on a motion to dismiss, the district judge threw out the claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act, claiming it lacked specificity.  The court relied on cases decided in 2013 when making its determination.  The Second Circuit found that the district court was wrong as the complaint at issue plausible alleged violations of the FLSA.

The employees argued that the high-end fashion retailer misclassified them as managers exempt from the FLSA’s overtime protections even though their actual duties were not managerial.  Specifically, the employees alleged they:

  • worked four to five hours beyond 40 per week by working through lunch breaks when the plaintiffs were scheduled to work five days per week for opening or closing shifts of approximately nine hours each day;
  • worked additional hours outside of their regular schedules, such as by engaging in post-shift duties of sending reports and messaging clients for approximately five hours more every week and handling shipments twice a week for about three more hours per week; and
  • twice worked two 13-hour shifts in a single week in addition to their base hours dealing with “seasonal changeover of merchandise” in 2018.

The Second Circuit found that employees must “provide some degree of ‘specificity’” in their complaints to proceed with FLSA overtime claims under Second Circuit precedent.  As noted above, the Court most recently addressed the proper standing in three 2013 decisions, none of which require workers seeking overtime to “provide a week-by-week recounting of the hours they worked,” the Court added, finding that the district court “imposed an unduly high pleading bar.”

Based on the foregoing, the Second Circuit reversed the district court, finding that the employees sufficiently specified (1) that the employees’ regularly scheduled work hours consisted of a specified number of shifts per week; and (2) the length of each shift, as well as the estimated total number of hours worked over 40 in any given week.  The Second Circuit held that these allegations allowed an inference of a “plausible claim of overtime.”