In a recent decision that appears to address the issue for the first time, U.S. District Court Judge Peter Messitte ruled that Maryland wage and hour statutes did not entitle members of a class of cable/telephone/internet technicians to recover unpaid wages and overtime earned during workweeks in which they did not perform any work in Maryland. In the case, styled Boyd, et al. v. SFS Communications, LLC, many of the class-member plaintiffs had performed work in multiple states and/or the District of Columbia during the relevant timeframe and sought to recover under Maryland law for all hours for which they had not been fully compensated regardless of where the work been performed. They argued that as long as the defendants were Maryland employers that were subject to liability for violating Maryland law, all unpaid wages and overtime they had earned during the relevant time frame could be recovered under the Maryland Wage Payment & Collection Law and the Maryland Wage & Hour Law. Had that argument been successful, the plaintiffs would have been able to seek treble damages (which are not available under the Fair Labor Standards Act) for all work they performed.
The court rejected the employees’ argument, noting that Maryland’s wage and hour statutes were modeled after the FLSA, which permits recovery only for workweeks in which an employee performed work in the United States. Thus, by analogy, Maryland statutes only permit recovery of unpaid wages or overtime associated with workweeks in which at least some work was done in Maryland. The court also cited Maryland’s general presumption against application of Maryland statutes outside of Maryland absent specific language indicating the legislature’s intent that the statute’s reach be so extended.
This is an important decision for Maryland employers that face wage and overtime claims from employees who perform work both inside and outside of Maryland. If employees cannot demonstrate that they performed work in Maryland during a particular workweek, a strong argument can be made that they cannot recover treble damages arising from that workweek even if they prove that the failure to pay was not the result of a bona fide dispute. The decision also demonstrates the importance of an employer of maintaining records of where its employees performed their work. Of course, employees whose claims encompass some workweeks in which they worked in Maryland and others in which they worked exclusively in another jurisdiction can bring claims under the laws of both jurisdictions in addition to their FLSA claims.
At Luchansky Law, our attorneys are continuously monitoring federal and state developments related to wage and hour claims and have significant experience litigating such claims. If you have questions about the classification of or compensation due your employees or have received a claim letter or lawsuit alleging the violation of wage and hour laws, we can help. Please call us at 410-522-1020.