While the FLSA’s coverage is broad, it does not extend to all employment scenarios. In a new decision addressing the common employment scenario where a building owner employs a single worker to serve as a janitor and handle miscellaneous tasks, Magistrate Judge Ramon E. Reyes of the Eastern District of New York ruled that such a worker could not bring a claim for overtime under the FLSA. Myung Seob Lee v. Kim, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 121952 (E.D.N.Y. 2013).
In analyzing the claims of the two plaintiffs, each of whom held the same handyman /janitor position for the defendant couple, the owners of an apartment building (with one Plaintiff succeeding the other in the role), the Court addressed whether Plaintiffs were employed by an enterprise which had “employees engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce.” Because the janitor was the couple’s only employee, the Court ruled that Plaintiffs failed to prove that, at any given time, “Defendants had more than one employee engaged in interstate commerce,” and thus they failed to establish FLSA coverage of their employment. Based on the opinion, it did not appear Plaintiffs argued in the alternative for “individual coverage” of their FLSA claims. The Court also ruled that Plaintiffs’ duties qualified them as the building’s “janitor” for purposes of the New York Wage Order applicable to the building services industry, which provides that certain individuals meeting the regulatory definition of “janitor” are exempt from overtime. 12 NYCRR § 141-3.4.
While the defendants in Lee escaped wage liability under both the FLSA and New York Labor Law, all employers regardless of their size and the sophistication of their business must assess whether they employ statutory employers under the FLSA or state law, and, if so, take steps to comply with all applicable laws.