A federal court in New Jersey recently allowed a lawsuit filed by four police officers to proceed as a conditional collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The officers claim that the city failed to pay them and other officers for all hours worked in violation of the FLSA.
The plaintiffs claim that Wildwood required them to work “off the clock” for 15 minutes before each shift. In addition, they allege that Wildwood violated the FLSA by failing to pay them for meal and coffee breaks, which they claim were compensable. To be a bona fide meal period under the FLSA, an employee must be completely relieved of his or her duty for the purpose of eating regular meals. Finally, the officers allege that the city regularly required them to perform work after their shifts ended and failed to pay them for their post-shift work unless Wildwood “pre-approved” the time.
Wildwood opposed the plaintiffs’ application to conditionally certify the case as a collective action, arguing that the putative class members worked in different locations and departments and had different jobs. In addition, the city argued that the plaintiffs only worked 35 hours per week, so they were not entitled to overtime. The Court rejected Wildwood’s arguments and conditionally certified the case as an FLSA collective action, which means that the plaintiffs are permitted to notify potential class members in an effort to get them to join the lawsuit.
This case contains several allegations that frequently lead to claims under the FLSA or the New Jersey Wage and Hour law, including off-the-clock work and unpaid rest periods. You should regularly audit your company’s compliance with the various requirements of state and federal wage and hour laws to ensure that your company is not the next target of a class or collective action lawsuit.