Attorneys for laborers who sued a general government contractor and master subcontractor, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), following cleanup work they performed after Hurricane Michael, recently appeared before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. The workers argued that a district court judge improperly granted summary judgment in September 2020 to the two defendants, finding that they were not the employers of the laborers within the meaning of the FLSA. Attorney argued that the 11th Circuit should revive the laborers’ claim and hold the two contractors liable under the FLSA.

Attorneys for the defendant contractors claimed that allowing the laborers’ claim to proceed would be an “unprecedented expansion of liability under the FLSA.” The attorneys argued that the workers were arguing for a “test with no limits” that could make governmental entities liable under the FLSA.

Laborer Ramon Valle filed suit as a collective action under the FLSA in March 2019. Valle claims he was hired in Miami to work on Hurricane Michael cleanup in Jackson County, Florida, at a government-contracted job site.

Valle originally sued Katherine Biscardi, Alfred Miller, and AA and K Restoration Group LLC, a shell corporation they created to obtain government contracts for disaster relief. When those defendants turned over time-keeping records at a mandatory settlement conference, the records indicated that Valle and other employees were under contract to contractor Ceres Environmental Services Inc. and subcontracted through Environmental Restoration Group LLC (ERG). The records made no references to AAA and K Restoration at all.

After the judge granted summary judgment to Ceres and ERG, the remaining defendants settled with Valle and the other plaintiffs, thus ending the case. This resolution led to Valle and the other workers filing this appeal.

The case is Valle et al. v. Ceres Environmental Services Inc. et al., case number 21-12020, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.