By Valerie L .Rodriguez and Catherine M. Dacre

Seyfarth Synopsis:  The Supreme Court’s decision in Iqbal on the requirement of specificity in pleading provided the guidance that “determining whether a plausible claim has been pled is a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663-64 (2009).  The Second Circuit recently addressed the level of specificity to successfully state a claim for unpaid overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  In what some might deem a softening of the standard, the court held that Plaintiffs must simply allege 40 hours of work in a workweek as well as some uncompensated time in excess of the 40 hours.

Let’s Be More Specific … Summary of Case

In Abbott v. Comme Des Garcons, Ltd., former employees of the Japanese fashion label’s retail store in New York alleged that their regularly scheduled workweek consisted of more than 40 hours of work.  Plaintiffs claimed they were misclassified as exempt managerial employees and, therefore, were owed overtime.  The District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed the FLSA claim stating Plaintiffs failed to allege the specific number of hours they worked. 

The Second Circuit concluded that the complaint adequately stated a claim under the FLSA, primarily relying on the allegation that the regularly scheduled hours exceeded 40 in a week.  The court rejected Defendant’s argument that because Plaintiffs took lunch breaks they did not actually work over 40 hours in a week, noting the allegation that Plaintiffs were not completely relieved from duty during their breaks, so the breaks could not be counted against them.  The court rejected the strict standard urged by Defendant, agreeing with Plaintiffs that time records, once produced in discovery, along with emails would also shed light on hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. 

Pleading, In Style

The court concluded that while plaintiffs must provide some degree of specificity to sufficiently plead an FLSA overtime claim, they need not keep careful records of the number of hours worked or calculate and plead their hours with mathematical precision.  An approximation of unpaid regular and overtime hours allegedly worked, while not required, may help draw a plaintiff’s claim closer to plausibility.