Who is Liable for Violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)?

Officers and owners can be held responsible

Posted by Jared Jacobson in Human Resources on April 29th, 2014

Can an officer or owner of a company be held liable for the company’s violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”)? It appears that the answer is yes.

In Irizarry v. Catsimatidis, No. 11-4035-cv (July 9, 2013), a collective action filed on behalf of current and former grocery store employees alleging overtime violations (failure to pay overtime), the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s decision that Mr. John Catsimatidis, the chairman, president, and CEO of a New York grocery store chain, was an “employer” under the FLSA and therefore may be subject to personal liability for failure to pay wages. Specifically, the United States Supreme Court was tasked with determining whether an individual, i.e., officer or owner of a company could be held responsible if the wage and hour law was broken and the company’s employees suffered as a result.

Economic Realities Test

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The court in this case applied the “economic realities” test which is used to determine the “economic reality” of an employment relationship.

The test includes whether the alleged employer:

  1. Had the power to hire and fire the employees
  2. Supervised and controlled employee work schedules or conditions of employment
  3. Determined the rate and method of payment
  4. Maintained employment records

Interestingly, the court found that an officer could, in fact, be held responsible if s/he exercised control over corporate affairs, even though s/he did not have any part of the decision-making affecting the violations of the FLSA.

In this case, the United States Supreme Court’s decision to not review the case means that the Second Circuit’s ruling stands and that officers now face a broader range of potential liability under this decision.


Jared Jacoboson
Jared Jacoboson

Attorney and founder of The Law Firm of Jacobson & Rooks, LLC

Jared Jacobson is one of the founding members of The Law Firm of Jacobson & Rooks, LLC. Jared Jacobson represents individual employees and executives as well as counsels employers in conducting workplace investigations to mitigate risks of employment and whistleblower litigation. Jared regularly performs human resource audits to ensure compliance with state (PA, NJ and NY) and federal discrimination, misclassification and wage and hour laws, as well as the risks associated with whistleblowers. Jared helps his clients understand the importance of investing in pre-emptive annual policy audits and work-place training as well as performing a proper investigation when a complaint is filed or threatened which can be invaluable when compared with the alternative.

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