[author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor]
Public employers can't be sued by individuals under the Fair Labor Standards Act. But, as a new appeals court ruling illustrates, there's nothing stopping the federal government from filing suit.
In 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor sued the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, alleging that it owed about 800 of its investigators more than $1 million in overtime. The state moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that it was protected under sovereign immunity, which guarantees that states cannot be subject to suits by their own citizens without their consent.
A district court rejected the state's motion, and the state appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals court agreed with the lower court, ruling, "Sovereign immunity...does not prevent a state from being subject to suit by the United States." Solis v. Tex., +2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 19138 (5th Cir. 2012).