DOJ Reverses its Position on Class Waiver.

The National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) was enacted in 1935 to “to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices.”[1] The Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) was enacted in 1925 to encourage private dispute resolution through arbitration.[2] Whether two federal statutes can live in harmony or conflict is often a thing of heated legal debate.

Currently before the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) are three consolidated cases that may put to rest a circuit split, deciding whether arbitration agreements that prohibit employees from joining other employees to pursue worked-related claims, including claims for unpaid minimum wages or unpaid overtime, violate the NLRA.[3] In a rare position reversal, the U.S. Department of Justice filed an amicus brief in which it now supports class waiver by arbitration agreements.

While not among the consolidated cases before the SCOTUS, the Sixth Circuit recently supported workers’ rights, holding that the NLRA does not conflict with the FAA, and since the NLRA creates a substantive, nonwaivable right to engage in concerted activity, arbitration agreements that prohibit concerted activities in any forum are unenforceable.[4] It is important to note that the Sixth Circuit does not say that an arbitration agreement cannot require collective or class claims to be brought in arbitration. Rather, the Sixth Circuit says that an arbitration agreement cannot prohibit an employee from pursuing collective claims, class claims or any other concerted activity in all forums. It is an arbitration agreement’s prohibition against concerted activity that violates the NLRA, not the arbitration agreement’s requirement to arbitrate.

Of course, disagreement on this issue is what the SCOTUS will decide. While the DOL’s shift certainly does not bode well for workers, we are hopeful that the legal arguments presented by the Sixth, Seventh and Ninth Circuits prevail. The power balance between workers and historically more powerful employers is facilitated by workers’ rights to join their individually insignificant damages and resources into collectives.

If you feel that you are not being properly paid wages you’ve earned, and if you think you have no recourse because you signed an arbitration agreement; you should call us for a free consultation. You may have a viable claim in court or in arbitration, and we can help you determine the best course of action after thorough consideration of your situation.

We can be reached at 800-274-5927.




[4] See 6th Cir. Opinion at Nat’l Labor Relations Bd. v. Alternative Entm’t, Inc., No. 16-1385(6th Cir. May 26, 2017)

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Department of Labor withdraws 2015 and 2016 informal guidance concerning joint employment and independent contractors.

Whether a worker is classified as an “employee” versus an “independent contractor” has significant ramifications. Indeed, according to the Department of Labor, “[t]he misclassification of employees as independent contractors presents one of the most serious problems facing affected workers, employers and the entire economy.”[1] There are many protections for employees that simply are not available to independent contractors. For example, when an employer misclassifies a worker as an independent contractor rather than an employee, the worker may be denied critical benefits and protections including compensation of at least the minimum wage for all hours worked and/or compensation of at least one and one-half the worker’s regular rate for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. Other benefits denied to misclassified workers include FMLA benefits, unemployment benefits, workplace safety benefits, and many others.

Additionally, there are many burdens and savings that employers experience whether a worker is classified as an “employee” versus an “independent contractor.” Not only does misclassification harm workers, but it harms employers that play by the rules because those employers that act unlawfully in this regard enjoy a competitive advantage over the law abiding employers.

Another question is whether an individual is an “employee” is the question of who is the “employer.” Sometimes a potential employer evades lawful obligations by creating sham contractor relationships in order to save labor costs. In such situations, as with others, there arises the question of whether one company is the “employer” or if multiple companies are “employers” under the law; often referred to as “joint employers.”

In an effort to ensure the remedial purposes of the Fair Labor Standards Act are met, the Department of Labor, from time to time, issues regulations, interpretive bulletins or opinion letters intended to clarify or frame questions including whether a worker should be classified as an “employee” versus an “independent contractor” or whether one or more companies are “joint employers” under the law. Such efforts are necessary because many workers have no choice but to agree to a mandated classification of “independent contractor.” Guidance by the Department of Labor does not limit the ability of a sophisticated self-employed entrepreneur from choosing his or her own classification. It hurts those who have but two choices: (1) accept the misclassification; or (2) find other work. These two choices are often no choice at all, especially if the worker lives in an economically depressed region where jobs are hard to come by.

Unfortunately, last week the Department of Labor announced that it is withdrawing its 2015 and 2016 informal guidance concerning joint employment and independent contractors.[2] Because employers typically have more power than the employees, the now withdrawn guidance will further increase the power imbalance against workers.

If you feel that you have been misclassified, call us at 800-274-5297 to schedule a free consultation with on of our attorneys.



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Automatic deductions for meal breaks and the law – what you need to know.

Ohio Break Laws

Breaks and lunches are an essential and often expected part of a workday but the reality of Ohio’s break laws might surprise you. Employers in the state of Ohio are not required to give anybody 18 or older breaks throughout their work shift. That being said you will be hard-pressed to find an employer who doesn’t allow for such breaks.


Routinely scheduled breaks have been shown to improve the overall effectiveness and productivity of employees. This is why most, if not all employers in Ohio allow for regular breaks and lunches. When employers choose to offer their employees breaks they have a list of rules put in place by the FLSA that they now have to abide by.


  • Employers must pay employees for any break less than 20 minutes in length.
  • Employers are not required to pay for meal breaks that are longer than 20 minutes.
  • If any work-related task is performed during a meal break the employer then has to pay the employee for the entire break.


This last point is the most commonly broken rule in the workplace and is often violated in scenarios where the employer has an automatic meal deduction system in place. If you feel like your employer is violating any of these rules, contact an unpaid wage attorney at Barkan Meizlish LLP today. We will fight for you and help you recover the wages that are rightfully yours. More information on unpaid wage violations can be found here.

Automatic Meal Deductions

Employers can run into trouble by implementing “automatic lunch deduction policies” as a shortcut around the FLSA’s requirements.  Rather than have employees clock in and clock out for meal breaks, many employers will automatically deduct break time from employees’ hours each day. 


The problem with this practice is that wages often go unpaid because it does not take into account work performed during a lunch break—whether that is an employee working straight through their lunch, answering a quick phone call or email from a supervisor during a break, or other interruptions during the break because of any other work-related duties.


If your employer makes you perform work tasks during an unpaid break then you might be eligible to recover lost wages. The unpaid wage attorneys at Barkan Meizlish LLP are here to help you recover what’s rightfully yours under the FSLA.


If you are an employer we strongly encourage you to refrain from automatic meal deductions. While it may be more time-consuming, manually tracking employees’ break times is the way to go. Doing this ensures your employees are being paid what they are rightfully owed and prevents you from having to deal with any unpaid wage lawsuits in the future.

Ohio Break Laws for Minors

As you might expect, the laws surrounding minors’ break times are different than those of people over the age of 18. Any worker under the age of 18 must take a 30-minute uninterrupted break for every 5 hours worked. This break does not have to be paid but the minor in question cannot perform any work related duties in the 30 minute time period. Labor laws surrounding minors are more strictly enforced and should be followed at all costs.

Unpaid Wage Attorneys

The fair labor standards act was put in place in 1938 to ensure that workers are treated fairly and compensated for every hour of their time. This act introduced many of the labor laws that are still in place today. Including a federal minimum wage, 40 hour work week, and those laws mentioned above regarding breaks. 


Barkan Meizlish LLP has been representing clients’ unpaid wage claims since 1957. If your employer has violated any of the laws mentioned above you need to contact one of our unpaid wage attorneys. We understand how valuable your time is and will fight for every hour of unpaid wages you are owed.

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