Employment law attorneys in our firm have seen an alarming number of cases involving the misclassification of temp and contract workers recently. A recent overtime lawsuit against one of the world’s largest law firms shows, once again, that even the most prestigious firms, banks, and companies can commit unlawful acts against their workers with respect to wage practices, particularly when it comes to overtime pay.
Employers misclassify workers in a number of different ways but often do it for the same reason: to avoid the expenses associated with proper classification. Properly classified temporary workers and independent contractors are not eligible for overtime wages and companies are not required to provide these workers with insurance benefits. Economic realities factors are typically used by courts to determine if the worker is truly an independent contractor or an employee. These factors involve an analysis of the level of control and independence that the worker has within the workplace .
This recent overtime class action suit, filed in New York against Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom alleges that the firm hired “contract lawyers” to review documents and failed to pay these workers overtime pay required under the FLSA. Lead Plaintiff David Lola claims that he worked 45-55 hours a week for fifteen (15) months reviewing documents for Skadden Arps at a flat hourly pay rate of $25.00 an hour.
In defense, Skadden Arps will most likely assert that Lola was exempt from overtime wages because he was a learned professional. Most lawyers, doctors, bankers, and those with advanced degrees are exempt from overtime wages under this exception. However, to qualify for the exemption, the law firm must pay a learned professional employee no less than $455.00 a week in a salary (not hourly wages)and the individual must perform work that requires advanced knowledge and is intellectual in nature. According to Lola, though he was hired as a “contract lawyer,” his work involved no legal analysis or advanced training, meaning that he was not exempt from overtime wages as a learned professional. Under state law, no such salary requirement exists for the exemption, but given that federal law does, Skadden Arps may have an uphill battle proving that Mr. Lola is exempt from overtime pay.
If you believe that you have been taken advantage of and adversely affected by purposeful misclassification, contact an attorney with expertise in wage and hour law under the FLSA. You may be eligible to recovery lost wages, including overtime pay.