In an effort to keep our friends and clients apprised monthly of recent significant happenings in the world of wage and hour law, we offer the following summary of events in April of 2012.

FEDERAL COURTS

In what appears to be a dwindling number of employer successes in the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") arena, on April 3, the Dollar Store defeated claims of two managers who invoked the executive exemption to the FLSA. The United States District Court for the District of South Carolina (Norton, J.) concluded that because they hired, promoted, terminated, supervised and disciplined employees, the managers were, in fact, exempt.

Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled on April 6 that six former Merrill Lynch financial advisors may represent conditionally a nationwide class, including call center employees; however, the Court recognized that FLSA collective actions impose class requirements less rigorous than those applicable in other class contexts and that the results of the battle over certification in this case remain to be determined after discovery is completed.

Conditional certification also was granted to current and former DirectTV satellite technicians in Maryland on April 10. In another United States District Court action, the Court ruled that timekeeping and compensation policies and practices preventing employees from claiming overtime pay and "off the clock" work sufficed to permit the case to move forward.

On April 12, the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky held that former masonry laborers had standing to sue under the FLSA for unpaid travel back to the employer's base of operations and for time while waiting for inclement weather to clear. This decision should cause all employers pause to reflect upon their employees' actual job functions within the totality of their job descriptions.

The United States Supreme Court heard arguments on April 16 regarding the FLSA's outside sales exemption. In a closely watched case, the justices will determine an issue about which the United States Courts of Appeals for the Second and Ninth Circuits have disagreed as to whether the outside sales exemption bars the overtime claims of drug sales representatives.

STATE COURTS

The California Supreme Court found on April 12 that while an employer is required to relieve an employee of his or her duties for a designated meal break, it does not have to ensure that the employee actually does no work. In a case involving a subclass of Chili's Grill & Bar and Maggiano's Little Italy restaurant employees, California's highest court sent the case back to the trial court to consider again its ruling certifying the subclass. The import of this decision may be widespread, relieving employers of the obligation to police employees who work through their meal breaks.

FEDERAL ACTION

On April 18, the United States Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division launched an enforcement and education initiative focused on restaurants in the vicinity of Los Angeles. The DOL's focus will be on overtime and wage and hour violations, among others. Similar efforts targeting San Francisco and Portland, Oregon restaurants were announced respectively on April 2 and April 5.

According to an April 19 announcement by the United States Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division, a Louisiana company has agreed to pay $430,956 in back overtime wages to 186 current and former employees misclassified as independent contractors.