Employee's Overtime and Pregnancy Bias Claims Rejected

Employee could not show employer knew about overtime hours

By Laurie A. Petersen and Samantha J. Wood Feb 26, 2016
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An employee could not prevail on a claim for overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) where she could not show that the employer had knowledge of the overtime hours allegedly worked. She also could not prevail on a pregnancy-based sex discrimination claim without sufficient evidence to show that the employer’s reasons for termination were pretextual, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

Ambrea Fairchild worked for All American Check Cashing Inc. as a nonexempt manager. Throughout her 13-month tenure with All American, she received numerous written warnings related to her inefficiency and poor performance. Even after the company demoted her, she continued to receive such warnings. In January 2013, just two months after Fairchild notified the company that she was pregnant, the company terminated her. Fairchild sued, alleging that she was terminated because of her pregnancy in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and also that the company had failed to pay her overtime wages in violation of the FLSA. 

The district court ruled in favor of All American, and the 5th Circuit affirmed, reasoning that Fairchild failed to produce enough evidence to support either of her claims. First, in regard to the FLSA claim, Fairchild failed to produce evidence to establish that All American had knowledge of her overtime hours. All American had policies in place that required employees to seek authorization to work overtime and to report overtime hours through its timekeeping system. Fairchild intentionally failed to report her overtime hours because they were unauthorized. While Fairchild argued that the company could have reviewed her computer usage reports to learn of her overtime, the court held that the question was whether the employer should have known about her overtime, not whether the employer had the potential ability to discover it. Because Fairchild ignored the company’s policies and procedures to deliberately prevent it from acquiring knowledge of her overtime work, she could not prevail on her FLSA claim. 

Second, in regard to her pregnancy-based sex discrimination claim, Fairchild failed to produce evidence to rebut All American’s legitimate, nondiscrimination reasons for termination. Fairchild’s only evidence of pregnancy discrimination was the temporal proximity between All American learning that she was pregnant and her termination. However, the company established that Fairchild’s termination was based on her poor performance, which was documented through numerous written reprimands and led to a demotion. Reviewing the evidence, the court held that temporal proximity alone was not sufficient to support Fairchild’s pregnancy-based sex discrimination claim. 

Fairchild v. All American Check Cashing Inc., 5th Cir., No. 15-60190 (Jan. 27, 2016).

Professional Pointer: Having a procedure in place that requires the employee to both request and report overtime can assist in defending against an employee’s claim of unpaid overtime. 

Laurie A. Petersen is a member of the board of directors and shareholder with Lindner & Marsack S.C., the Worklaw® Network member firm in Milwaukee. Samantha J. Wood is an attorney with the firm.

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