Reviewing a district court’s dismissal of FLSA claims which were not timely filed within the FLSA’s two-year limitations period for non-willful violations, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found no error in the lower court’s two findings that: 1) plaintiff failed to create a question of fact as to willfulness in order to potentially extend the limitations period to three years; and, 2) there was no basis to toll the statute of limitations based on plaintiff’s Department of Labor complaint or illness. Parada v. Banco Indus. De Venez., 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 5497 (2d Cir. Mar. 25, 2014).
In Parada, plaintiff alleged, inter alia, that she was misclassified under the FLSA. However, the District Court determined, and the Second Circuit affirmed, that Plaintiff could not meet her burden to establish willfulness because there was “no record evidence of [Defendant]‘s willful violation of the FLSA when it mistakenly classified [Plaintiff] as exempt.” Thus, a two-year limitations period applied and her claim was untimely. In a last gasp, plaintiff argued for tolling of the limitations period based on her filing of a DOL complaint during the limitations period and/or due to an alleged medical condition from which she suffered during the relevant period. The Circuit Court noted that tolling applies only in “extraordinary circumstances” and observed that nothing prevented plaintiff from filing her FLSA claims while the DOL investigation was open, as the FLSA contains no requirement to exhaust administrative remedies. The Court further concluded that her medical condition was not “severe enough to prevent her from filing the FLSA claim earlier.”
Plaintiffs bringing untimely claims for wages continue to seek avenues to extend the limitations period. Parada serves as a reminder that plaintiffs must provide evidence of willfulness and/or “extraordinary circumstances” to support a tolling argument.