Fifth Circuit: FLSA Preempts State Tort Claims


All Employers with LA, MI, TX Employees


March 9, 2021


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In Aldridge v. Mississippi Dept. of Corrections, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal stated that employees must pursue their claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) rather than state tort law (e.g., negligence) where the state does not independently provide for minimum wage or overtime compensation requirements. Specifically, FLSA requirements cannot be circumvented by state laws, because they conflict with executing the “purposes and objectives of Congress.” The FLSA was designed to give specific minimum protections to individual workers “from substandard wages and oppressive working hours.”

There, employees claimed wage and hour violations under the FLSA, and negligence causes of action under state law for the FLSA violations. Mississippi does not have its own minimum wage and overtime laws, so the state claims were actually based on alleged violations of the federal claims. Under those circumstances, the state claims do not stand on their own and the court said that the state claims were preempted by the federal claims.

The court distinguished this idea by acknowledging that the FLSA requires employers to also comply with state or local wage and hour laws where they exist. The court’s position “only means that [employees] may not sue simultaneously under both state law and the FLSA for these violations if state law does not independently provide for such a cause of action.” The court also acknowledged that some state tort claims may stand if they are independent of the federal claims. Employers must take care to ensure compliance with both federal and state laws where they apply.

Action Items

  1. Review pending litigation with legal counsel in light of this ruling.
  2. Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance.

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.

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