Check Casher Fails to Cash in on Overtime and Discrimination Claims

This past week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that a pregnant employee who worked unauthorized overtime and was terminated two months after announcing her pregnancy could not prevail on claims brought under federal employment laws.   Fairchild v. All American Check Cashing, Inc., No. 15-60190 (1/27/16). Because the plaintiff could not show that her employer had knowledge of the overtime work, or that her employer’s proffered reasons for termination were pretextual, her claims under both the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Title VII failed.
Plaintiff Fairchild began working for All American Check Cashing as a manager trainee in December 2011, where she was responsible for check cashing, loans and debt collection. Shortly after hire, she was promoted to manager;  however her performance in the new role was poor. After receiving numerous write ups for costly mistakes, including three such warnings in less than one month, she was demoted to her original position. Following the demotion, Fairchild announced that she was pregnant. She was terminated two months later.
Fairchild sued All American under both the FLSA and Title VII, claiming she was denied overtime wages and terminated due to pregnancy. With regard to her FLSA claim, Fairchild sought payment for “overtime” hours that she failed to record in All American’s timekeeping system. According to Fairchild, the hours were necessary to “get the job done,” but she did not report them because All American policy prohibited unauthorized overtime. An employee cannot prevail on a FLSA overtime claim absent proof that her employer had knowledge of the overtime work. In this case, evidence of computer usage reports which allegedly showed Fairchild working after clocking out, were not enough to prove that All American had constructive knowledge of the alleged overtime work.
As for her Title VII claim, the court concluded that Fairchild’s repeated performance problems were legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for termination. It also rejected Fairchild’s argument that the close timing between her pregnancy announcement and termination was sufficient evidence of pretext. Looking to other employment discrimination law for guidance, the Fifth Circuit concluded that evidence of temporal proximity between an employer learning of a plaintiff’s pregnancy and the plaintiff’s termination, without more, is insufficient to establish pretext. Judgment in favor of All American was affirmed on both Fairchild’s FLSA and Title VII claims.

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