The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas has ruled that a chef's overtime and retaliation lawsuit can proceed to trial. Although the chef had management duties where she worked, the chef's employer failed to demonstrate that she was exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Under the FLSA, employees whose primary duty is management may be exempt from overtime compensation.
The plaintiff in the FLSA case worked as the chief chef at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Arlington. She was responsible for the hospital's food service department, and she spent about 10 percent of her working hours managing the other food service employees. The chef had no authority to change company policies or hire and fire employees.
According to the plaintiff, she worked a minimum of 50 hours per week but was never duly compensated for her overtime hours. The chef claims that she inquired about overtime compensation when she took the job and then submitted internal complaints in October 2014 and April 2015. Just one hour after the chef submitted her second complaint, she was fired from her position. The hospital denied having any knowledge about the chef's overtime complaint before firing her.
An employee that was fired immediately after submitting an internal complaint may have a case for filing an FLSA retaliation lawsuit. Attorneys will explain to their clients that in some cases employers may be held liable for FLSA retaliation even if an employee's suspicions about unpaid overtime or wage theft turn out to be invalid.