In a rare FLSA victory for employers, the 11th Circuit recently handled down a key decision for employers seeing to limit their exposure to attorneys’ fees in FLSA actions which, in many cases, can far exceed the amount of damages suffered by the employees. In Dionne v. Floormasters Enters, 2011 U.S. App. Lexis 15560 (11th Cir July 28, 2011), the court effectively held that employers can avoid paying attorneys’ fees in FLSA cases by paying the employees all wages claimed, plus the statutory liquidated damage amount, prior to judgment. Specifically, since the employer in Dionne had given plaintiff all the relief he was entitled to through the litigation, the trial court dismissed the case because there was no “case or controversy.” And, once that happened, the court went on to hold that the plaintiff’s attorney was not entitled to an award of fees because there was no judicial determination in the plaintiff’s favor, a condition precedent to an award of attorneys’ fees under the FLSA. Therefore, in cases where liability is likely to be established and the amount of unpaid wages or overtime is easily calculated, this case serves as a roadmap to resolving the case early on in the litigation without the risk of being required to pay attorneys’ fees.
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