New Jersey Law Firm Sued By Paralegals for Overtime Pay
This week, the New Jersey Law Journal published the news of a law firm being sued in a collective action brought by paralegals for not paying for overtime. The news was interesting enough for the ABA Journal to pick up, because the law firm, in this case, is one that specializes in Fair Labor Standards Act.
The collective action was filed by five paralegals of Pasricha & Patel of Edison, N.J. along with a number of former paralegals who had worked in the law firm. According to the lawsuit, the lead plaintiff had, in his five years of work for the firm, put in close to 1000 hours of overtime from 2011 to date. He claims he was not paid for the overtime done.
The plaintiffs claim double wages for the pay denied to them and as provided for under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Though the damages can only be estimated according to the salaries of the paralegals at the time they had done the overtime, the lead plaintiff Jason Barros claims he had put in 440 hours in 2011, 375 hours in 2012, 75 hours in 2013 and 60 hours of overtime in 2014 until he brought the lawsuit.
Claiming that the violation of FLSA committed by the law firm was willful, the lawsuit observed, "in addition to the defendants being attorneys, this firm has itself represented employees who have alleged that their employer unlawfully failed to pay them overtime pay in violation of the FLSA."
One of the defendants, Gary Pasricha a.k.a. Gurpreet Pasricha is known to have personally handled at least two FLSA cases in the District of New Jersey, both of which had led to settlements not put on record. The other defendant is Sheetal Patel.
The New Jersey Law Journal mentioned that the counsel for the plaintiff, Mitchell Schley, told the publication that the entitlement to overtime by paralegals is a well-settled question according to U.S. Department of Labor regulation 29 C.F.R. Section 541.301(d)(7). The regulation says that paralegals may be exempt from overtime if possessing an advanced specialized degree in another professional field, which knowledge is applied to their duties in the concerned workplace. However, the suit says, none of the plaintiffs have an advanced degree used in a manner where they may be held exempt from overtime pay.
The counsel of the defendants, however, cited a precedent Austin v. CUNA Mutual Insurance Society, (W.D. Wisc., 2006), which holds paralegals with a high degree of autonomy may be exempt from overtime, and that the lead plaintiff falls into this category.
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