Attorney sues law firm over nature of work performed

Employee classification can be difficult, considering the multi-step tests that must apply in whole for workers to be exempt from the wage and overtime provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

Situations where classification varies between individual staff members can prove especially confusing. A lawsuit over the exact nature of a trained lawyer's duties performing document review tasks at a New York law firm, reported on by legal source Above The Law, highlights the potential problems.

The plaintiff in the suit claims that his work examining reports and other papers didn't qualify as the practice of law. Therefore, his time at the firm should have been recorded and his pay should have been calculated on an hourly basis, with premium overtime wages provided when his workweek exceeded 40 hours.

The FLSA is clear in its list of exemptions that the learned professional category must include intellectual work requiring critical thinking and the application of skills learned in an academic environment. Additionally, attorneys licensed to practice law are exempt from the minimum wage and salary requirements when engaged in such activities.

Companies trying to avoid labor litigation should discuss proper classification of employees with a qualified legal counsel and invest in attendance tracking software.


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