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Employment Highlights: 1Q 2014

A. Cases

  • Andrews. 26  In Andrews, the plaintiff was a well-paid “nonselling broker” who worked at a Sotheby agency in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. His employment contract included a yearly bonus. The agency was sold and the new owner agreed to honor the contract at least through the end of that year. It did not pay the bonus at the end of the year and terminated the plaintiff about six months later. He alleged claims for breach of contract and a violation of the New York Labor Law with respect to his unpaid compensation. Sotheby, the predecessor broker, was dismissed from the case. The court also dismissed some claims against the successor broker, but the essential claims of breach of contract and the labor-law claim were allowed to go forward.
     
  • Lipnicki. 27  Lipnicki raised issues relating to overtime pay and minimum wages. More than one hundred former salespeople sued for unpaid wages. The case addressed the “outside sales” exemption from the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The case also addressed the good-faith defense to an FLSA claim, which states that the court may decline to award liquidated damages against an employer who misclassified employees as exempt from overtime and minimum wage requirements if the employer acted in good faith, and if the employer had reasonable grounds for believing that his or her act or omission was not in violation of the law. The opinion contains an extended discussion of opinion letters issued by the Department of Labor. The court declined to rule on the outside sales exemption before trial and concluded that the defendants could reargue the good-faith defense after trial if they were found liable under the FLSA.
     
  • Salter. 28 In Salter, a real-estate agent and her broker had an employment agreement that could be terminated “for cause” or with 30 days’ notice. The agent was abruptly terminated and the employer would not pay the commissions and wages she claimed were owed. She alleged a claim under the Massachusetts Wage Act and a claim of bad-faith termination. She also contended she was misclassified as an independent contractor. The court denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that there was an issue of fact as to whether the plaintiff was terminated “for cause.”  If so, no commissions were owed; if not, commissions earned during the 30-day notice period may  be due. The court also denied the defendant’s motion on the bad-faith termination. The wage and hour claim was dismissed only with respect to the claim for unpaid salary under the Wage Act because the plaintiff did not actually work during the 30-day notice period and did not earn any salary.

B. Statues and Regualtions

  • Statues and regulations addressing Employment are not included in the Legal Pulse.

C. Volume of Materials Retreived

  • Employment issues were identified six times in three cases. (See Table 1.) (Some cases addressed more than one Employment issue.) The Employment issue with the highest volume of cases is Wage and Hour Issues, followed by Wrongful Termination and Independent Contractors. (See Table 2.) Statues and regulations addressing Employment are not included in the Legal Pulse.
     

26 Andrews v. Sotheby Int’l Realty, Inc., No. 12 Civ. 8824 (RA), 2014 WL 626968 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 18, 2014).

27 Lipnicki v. Meritage Homes Corp., No. 3:10-cv-605, 2014 WL 923524 (S.D. Tex. Feb. 2014).

28 Salter v. Lopez, No. SUCV2012-01000-E, 31 Mass. L. Rptr. 610, 2013 WL 7121297 (Mass. Super. Ct. Oct. 28, 2013).