Eleventh Circuit Expands FLSA Protection for Undocumented Workers

On March 6, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion that permits undocumented workers to recover back pay from their employers for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). In Lamonica v. Safe Hurricane Shutters, Inc., --- F. 3d ----, 2013 WL 811906 (11th Cir. Mar. 6, 2013), the Eleventh Circuit upheld a District Court decision awarding unpaid wages and liquidated damages to former employees, including one worker who was not authorized to work in the United States, who alleged that they were owed overtime wages under the FLSA. This was not a case of first impression for the Eleventh Circuit; the Court had previously held that undocumented workers could state a cause of action under the FLSA in Patel v. Quality Inn S., 846 F. 2d 700 (11th Cir. 1988). However, Hurricane Shutters, Inc. argued that Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. NLRB, 535 U.S. 137, 122 S. Ct. 1275, 152 L. Ed. 271 (2002), a Supreme Court case which held that the National Labor Relations Board could not award back pay to undocumented workers who are terminated for union activity, effectively overruled Patel. The Eleventh Circuit disagreed, stating that the case was not controlling authority because it involved a different statute and different issues; whereas the employees in Hoffman alleged they were owed back pay for being deprived a job, the employees in Lamonica claimed they were owed back pay for work already performed.

Chaired by Brett J. Schneider, WSH’s Labor and Employment Law Group has years of experience advising clients regarding compliance with the FLSA and regularly defends clients in single plaintiff and class action litigation arising from alleged FLSA violations. In addition to defending lawsuits in Federal and State courts across Florida, the Group handles arbitrations and civil service board and other administrative hearings for our public sector clients. In addition, the Firm’s Litigation Division routinely handles matters in the labor, employment and civil rights area.

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Author(s): Brett J. Schneider & Brooke P. Dolara