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Court rules on first impression FLSA issue

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In denying summary judgment for either party in a dispute involving the Fair Labor Standards Act, the U.S. District judge noted the issue appears to be one of first impression in the 7th Circuit.

In Nicholas S. Pennington v. G.H. Herrmann Funeral Homes Inc., No. 1:09-CV-390, Nicholas Pennington, a licensed funeral director and embalmer, sued his former employer, G.H. Herrmann Funeral Homes, for violating the FLSA and Indiana Wage Payment Statute by not paying him a proper overtime premium under the FLSA for hours worked in excess of 40 per workweek.

Pennington worked for the funeral home for seven years and worked two alternating work schedules: 36 hours a week during day shifts and 101.5 hours per week during night shifts. He was paid more per hour during the day shift than the night shift, which included 61.5 hours of overtime.

The FLSA lets an employer pay an employee overtime at one-and-one-half times a different hourly rate than the employee’s regular hourly rate when the employee performs “two or more kinds of work” and has reached an agreement with the employer that different rates apply to different kinds of work. But neither the FLSA nor its regulations have defined the term “different kinds of work” and there is little caselaw on the matter, noted Chief Judge Richard L. Young.

Chief Judge Young relied on Townsend v. Mercy Hosp. of Pittsburgh, 862 F.2d 1009 (3d Cir. 1988), in which the court found that “active work” performed by operating room personnel during their regular shift was qualitatively different than the “stand-by/non productive” periods on the overtime off-hours shift. It also held the hospital’s compensation scheme didn’t run afoul of the FLSA because it based the operating room personnel’s active duty pay during the overtime shift upon their regular weekday base rate of pay.

The dispute in the instant case is whether Pennington’s duties differed depending on which shift he worked. He claimed he did the same type of work, only did it less frequently at night; the funeral home claimed his duties were different.

“The court agrees that, to the extent Plaintiff performed 'funeral director' type work at night, Plaintiff’s job duties during the day were the same job duties as those he performed at night,” wrote the chief judge.

It would seem based on Townsend that the funeral home had to pay Pennington his regular hourly rate and base his overtime pay on that rate for the time spent at night performing those funeral director-type duties. But Chief Judge Young declined to grant summary judgment to either side because Pennington’s night duties and the frequency with which he did them are disputed.

Chief Judge Young denied summary judgment on the issues of bona fide hourly rate, normal applicable rate for overtime wages, different rates for different shifts, and if there was a violation of the Indiana Wage Payment Statute. He did grant summary judgment in favor of the funeral home with respect to Pennington’s liquidated damages claim.
 

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  1. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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