The number of FLSA lawsuits filed each year continues to rise. See The Wage & Hour Litigation Epidemic Continues, at Seyfarth Shaw’s Wage & Hour Litigation Blog. Often, the lawsuits follow certain trends, targeting a particular industry, job type, or claim. One such trend, which I’ve written about previously, is meal-break claims. In these suits, the plaintiffs allege that their pay was automatically deducted for meal breaks that they never received.
Although this has been a popular claim, it’s not been a very successful one. And a recent case from the Eastern District of New York gives employers real reason to believe that meal-break claims are all but dead upon arrival.
In DeSilva v. North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, Inc., the court decertified a collective action of 1,196 plaintiffs who had alleged that they were subject to automatic deduction of meal breaks that they didn’t receive. In its opinion, the court makes clear that such claims will have a difficult time proceeding as a collective action:
In the time since this action was initially filed, mounting precedent supports the proposition that [the employer’s] timekeeping system and system-wide overtime compensation policies are lawful under the FLSA.
The court explains that this “mounting precedent” has resolved any doubt about the validity of auto-deduct policies, which require an employee to report a missed break to his supervisor in order to be paid for it. If no report of a missed break is made, the break period (usually 30 minutes) is automatically deducted from the time worked. This timekeeping system has the benefit of not requiring that employees clock in and out during their breaks—only at the beginning and end of each shift. The court reiterated that “automatic meal deduction policies are not per se illegal” and:
[w]ithout more, a legal automatic meal deduction for previously scheduled breaks cannot serve as the common bond around which an FLSA collective action may be formed."
This decision continues to build on the growing body of case law dismissing or decertifying FLSA collective and class actions arising from auto-deduct meal-break policies. Good news for employers, particularly in health care, where these policies are commonplace.
DeSilva v. N. Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, Inc., No. 10-CV-1341 (PKC) (WDW), 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77669 (E.D.N.Y. June 5, 2014).
2d Cir. Drops the FLSA Hammer (Dejesus v. HF Mgmt’s Servs., LLC, No. 12-4565 (2d Cir. Aug. 5, 2013).
Another Auto-Deduct Case Bites the Dust (Raposo v. Garelick Farms, LLC (D. Mass. July 11, 2013)).
8th Cir- FLSA Plaintiffs Must Spell It Out (Carmody v. Kan. City Bd. of Police Comm’rs (8th Cir. Apr. 23, 2013)).
2d Cir- FLSA Does Not Cover Gap Time (Lundy v. Catholic Health Sys. (2d Cir. Mar. 1, 2013)).
Another Employer's Auto-Deduct Policy Is Upheld (Creeley v. HCR ManorCare, Inc., (N.D. Ohio Jan. 31, 2013)).
6th Cir. Affirms Dismissal of FLSA Gotcha Litigation (White v. Baptist Mem'l Health Care Corp. (6th Cir. Nov. 6, 2012)).
The Legality of Automatically Deducting Meal Breaks (Camilotes v. Resurrection Health Care Corp. (N.D. Ill. Oct. 4, 2012)).
E.D. Pa. Dismisses Nurses' Claims for Missed Meal Breaks, Part I and Part II (Lynn v. Jefferson Health Sys., Inc. (E.D. Pa. Aug. 8, 2012)).
FLSA Victory: Class Certification Denied (Pennington v. Integrity Comm’n, LLC (E.D. Mo. Oct. 11, 2012)).