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Home / Opinion Digests / Employment Law / EDVA: Willful FLSA violations merit liquidated damages, fees

EDVA: Willful FLSA violations merit liquidated damages, fees

An employer who admitted awareness of federal requirements but failed to keep time records was liable to its employees for unpaid overtime and unpaid lunch breaks going back three years, plus liquidated damages and attorney fees.


Plaintiffs Catherine Riggle and Elise Minnick were each employed as bartenders, cocktail waitresses, and shift leaders at three pool halls owned and operated by the Defendants. For the majority of this time, the Plaintiffs were compensated at an hourly rate that varied based on the role they performed in different shifts.

The Plaintiffs allege that, during their employment, they received no overtime pay for working above 40 hours in a single workweek. They further allege that the Defendants explicitly and willfully misinformed each of them that they were not entitled to be paid for overtime hours at the federal overtime rate.

The Plaintiffs sued for unpaid wages and ultimately moved for summary judgment on the issue of willfulness of the violations, which permits a one-year extension on the statute of limitations for claiming unpaid compensation.


The Defendants have acknowledged that they were aware of the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act, but they have not produced any timekeeping records besides secondary-source spreadsheets derived from paystubs, which were in turn derived from time records that the Defendants admit had been altered by subtracting a half-hour lunch break from each shift. These spreadsheets detail only the total hours worked each two-week pay period and the total wages earned and, thus, do not indicate how many shifts were worked each week or how many half-hour deductions were made.

Accordingly, the Defendants have at least shown reckless disregard as to whether they were violating the FLSA by failing to maintain proper records. Therefore, the Plaintiffs are entitled to the longer three-year statute of limitations.

Exempt status

Both Plaintiffs were paid on an hourly basis for their entire employment, with the exception of a five-month span during which Riggle was paid on a salary basis. Thus, the majority of their work cannot qualify for either the administrative or the executive exemption.

Even if the Plaintiffs were considered salaried employees, however, the “primary duty” prongs of the exemption test also fail. The record indicates that the Plaintiffs’ primary duty is serving as bartenders and cocktail waitresses. Construing FLSA exemptions narrowly, as is required, it cannot be said that this primary duty involves office work or non-manual management of the employer’s business operations. Thus, the administrative-capacity exemption does not apply. Furthermore, the executive-capacity exemption does not apply since the Plaintiffs’ primary duty is not directly related to management of the enterprise. Therefore, the Plaintiffs are non-exempt employees entitled to overtime compensation.

While the FLSA allows automatic deductions for lunch breaks if the employer accurately records the employees’ work hours, the Defendants fail to meet that standard, as they have not produced any timekeeping records that accurately reflect the hours worked during each shift, how many shifts were worked each pay period, or how many automatic deductions were made. Accordingly, the Plaintiffs are entitled to summary judgment on this issue.

Overtime calculation

The Plaintiffs have presented evidence of the amount and extent of their improperly compensated work by referencing the paystub spreadsheets provided by the Defendants and dividing the total wages earned each pay period by the total hours worked to arrive at an average hourly rate. The figure for total hours worked was also supplemented by adding in half an hour per estimated shift, since the parties stipulated that the paystub spreadsheets only accurately reflect the hours worked by the employees if the manually-deducted half hour per shift is added back in.

Using this method of calculation, the Plaintiffs conclude that Riggle is owed $5,969.80, based on an average hourly rate of $18.66 for 639.85 hours of unpaid overtime, and that Minnick is owed $17,512.67 based on an average hourly rate of $17.76 for 1,975.68 hours of unpaid overtime. As the Defendants have not produced more accurate timekeeping records to indicate precisely how many shifts the Plaintiffs worked at what compensation rate each pay period, the Plaintiffs’ evidence on this question is unrebutted.

Because the FLSA provides for mandatory liquidated damages in an amount equal to the unpaid overtime compensation, Riggle is entitled to a total of $11,939.60 and Minnick is entitled to $35,025.34.

Attorneys’ fees

The FLSA also expressly provides at 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) that the court “shall” allow reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs to be paid by the defendant. Accordingly, the Plaintiffs submitted an affidavit stating that counsel spent 93 total hours working on this case, at a rate of $425 per hour, amounting to $39,525 in fees, with an additional $1,573.50 in costs. The Defendants have not contested the reasonableness of the fees and costs, and this court finds them reasonable.

Motion for summary judgment granted.

Riggle v. The Revolution Darts & Billiards-Centreville LLC, Case No. 1:17cv792, Mar. 30, 2018. EDVA at Alexandria (Hilton). VLW No. 018-3-120, 10 pp.