A few months ago, I posted about a law firm sued for overtime by a paralegal. In this latest case lodged against another law firm, a securities and antitrust plaintiff’s law firm named Labaton Sucharow LLP, a former attorney has filed a class/collective action seeking overtime. The suit was filed under New York law and the Fair Labor Standards Act. The case is entitled Koplowitz v. Labaton Sucharow LLP and is in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The suit’s primary contention is that because the attorney was paid hourly and worked more than forty hours, he was entitled to overtime compensation and not paid it . I find this a challenging theory because it is my understanding that lawyers (and doctors) can be paid hourly, under the Fair Labor Standards Act and still qualify for the professional exemption. See 29 CFR 541.304. Perhaps the twist here is that the plaintiff is alleging that New York State does not recognize this exception to the salary requirement, but then why would the suit also be filed under the FLSA?.
Notwithstanding the FLSA carve-out for lawyers and doctors on the salary issue, the plaintiff’s attorney has boldly asserted that “the law is simple. Employees paid on an hourly basis cannot be exempt under the FLSA’s `white-collar` exemptions. It is disturbing that a prestigious law firm would pay employees in clear violation of the law.”
The plaintiff’s attorney must have a countervailing argument to escape the dispositive force of the FLSA regulation because he filed the case as a collective action, ostensibly on behalf of all attorneys employed by the firm within the last six years who worked in excess of forty (40) hours per week and were paid hourly.
The other problem for the plaintiffs, as I see it, is that New York generally follows the FLSA regulations and guidance on exemption issues, meaning that New York will likely adopt the same rule that lawyers are exempt, even if paid hourly . One argument might be to contend that the duties assigned to the plaintiff were not lawyer duties and thus did not constitute exempt work.
I will follow this with interest and report back.