Legal Alert: Eleventh Circuit Issues Important New Decision on Attorneys' Fees in FLSA Lawsuits

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According to a new decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, employers can avoid paying attorneys' fees in FLSA cases by, before judgment, paying the plaintiff(s) all wages claimed, plus an equal amount as liquidated damages. Dionne v. Floormasters Enters., 2011 U.S. App. Lexis 15560 (11th Cir. July 28, 2011).

In Dionne, the plaintiff sued Floormasters, claiming the company failed to pay him overtime as required by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Dionne submitted an affidavit in this case, estimating that his unpaid wages were $1,500. Floormasters tendered a check for $3,000 – the amount claimed as unpaid wages plus an equal amount as liquidated damages – and moved for dismissal arguing that the offer mooted Dionne's claim thereby depriving the court of subject matter jurisdiction. The trial court granted the motion and dismissed the case with prejudice, reserving jurisdiction to consider a motion for attorneys' fees and costs. Dionne moved for attorneys' fees and costs under Section 216(b) of the FLSA, which makes fee awards mandatory for prevailing plaintiffs. Floormasters argued that Dionne was not entitled to attorneys' fees or costs because no judgment had been entered in his favor.

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