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Temporary Attorney Joint Employer Status in FLSA Suit

NEW YORK — Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP, a large law firm based in New York, requested a federal court to rule on whether the firm would be considered an employer of a temporary attorney. The temporary attorney had sued the law firm along with his legal staffing firm Tower Legal Staffing Inc. as joint employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The suit was initially dismissed by a federal district court but was revived by a court of appeals last month.

Initial Dismissal and Reinstatement of FLSA Suit

The case was initially dismissed by a federal district court that ruled that the temporary attorney, who was engaged in document review, was engaged in the practice of law and, thus, exempt from the protections of FLSA as a professional employee. However, the Court of Appeals disagreed with the ruling and indicated that document review may not constitute the practice of law and thus the plaintiff may move forward with his case.

Joint Employers Under FLSA

Skadden, in its motion to dismiss, argued that it was not a joint employer of the temporary attorney. However, the court failed to rule on the joint employer issue.

FLSA is intended to prevent employers from avoiding responsibility with its wage and overtime requirements by using third-party operations. Thus, courts look at the economic realities of the employment relationship when determining whether an employer is a joint employer under FLSA. In doing so, courts apply a number of factors to determine whether a worker is economically dependent on a purported employer and is thus engaged in an employment relationship. Some of these factors include whether the employer has the power to direct, control, or supervise the worker or the work performed, whether an employer has the power to hire or fire, modify the employment conditions, or determine the pay rates.

If an employer is considered a joint employer of a worker under FLSA, then the employer must comply with FLSA’s overtime and minimum wage requirements. Joint employers under FLSA are individually and jointly responsible for FLSA compliance, including paying not less than the minimum wage for all hours worked during the workweek and, if applicable, overtime compensation for hours worked over 40 in the workweek.

Employers can not skirt the requirements of FLSA by using a staffing firm if workers can show that a legitimate joint employment relationship exists. If you work for a staffing firm, but the company you are assigned to has control over your day-to-day work, then it may be a joint employer and you may be entitled to back pay and other damages for any unpaid hours worked from both joint employers. You should call (855) 754-2795 or complete the Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review form on the top right of this page if you feel that you have been deprived of your wage rights. Our top-rated team of wage lawyers will evaluate your situation to determine your best course of action. We will also determine if it is in your best interest to file a lawsuit against your employer. There are strict time limitations for filing, so it is important that you call our experienced attorneys today.

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