Employee’s Failure to Estimate Overtime Hours May Defeat FLSA Claims

Randi Klein Hyatt
Randi Klein Hyatt

 On August 5, 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a lower court decision holding that an employee’s FLSA claims were properly dismissed by the trial court.  Dejesus v. HF Mgmt. Servs., LLC, No. 12-4565 (2d. Cir. Aug. 5, 2013).  The district court had dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint because it lacked the factual specificity detailing the alleged unpaid overtime hours that she had allegedly worked.

Plaintiff, Ramona Dejesus, filed suit against her employer, HF Management Services LLC (“Healthfirst”), alleging that Healthfirst failed to pay her overtime wages required by the FLSA.  Specifically, her complaint alleged that she worked more than 40 hours per week during “some or all weeks” of her employment, but did not receive overtime wages.  Plaintiff “did not [however] estimate her hours in any or all weeks or provide any other factual context or content.”

Healthfirst moved to dismiss the complaint, claiming that Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.  The district court held that Plaintiff did not adequately allege that she worked overtime without proper compensation under the FLSA because she did not provide estimates of her work hours in any given workweek and, therefore, dismissed her complaint without prejudice.  Although the district court provided Plaintiff an opportunity to replead her claim, she declined and appealed to the Second Circuit.

The Second Circuit affirmed, finding that Plaintiff’s allegation that she worked more than 40 hours per week during “some or all weeks” of her employment with Healthfirst was not sufficiently specific for her complaint to survive dismissal.  The Second Circuit acknowledged that its precedent does not require employees “to keep careful records and plead their hours with mathematical precision.”  Rather, a worker “must sufficiently allege 40 hours of work in a given workweek as well as some uncompensated time in excess of the 40 hours” in order to plead a plausible FLSA overtime claim.  Lundy v. Catholic Health System of Long Island, 711 F.3d 106, 20 (2d. Cir. 2013).  In a July 2013 case, the Second Circuit held that hospital workers “raised the possibility of an overtime claim” by alleging that they were not paid for working during meal breaks, attending training, and accumulating extra shift time, but still failed to state a plausible overtime claim because they did not demonstrate “how these instances added up to [40] or more hours in a given week.”  Nakahata v. New York-Presbyterian Health System Inc., (2d. Cir. July 11, 2013).

Following the reasoning of Nakahata, the Second Circuit was quick to point out in Dejesus that “it is employees’ memory and experience that lead them to claim in federal court that they have been denied overtime in violation of the FLSA in the first place.”  Here, Plaintiff’s complaint was less factually specific than the complaints in both Lundy and Nakahata.  “Indeed, her complaint was devoid of any numbers to consider beyond those plucked from the [FLSA].”  “Whatever the precise level of specificity that was required of the complaint, Dejesus at least was required to do more than repeat the language of the statute.”  Thus, the Second Circuit confirmed that though employees need not plead overtime hours with mathematical precision in their complaints, they must do more than the bare minimum of tracking the FLSA to state a plausible claim.

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