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Legal Memorandum: FLSA Civil Enforcement Actions

Issue: WHETHER A CONCLUSION BY THE COURT OF APPEALS THAT A SPECIFIC STIPULATION WAS EFFECTIVE AND SUFFICIENT TO RELIEVE THE SECRETARY OF LABOR OF ITS ORDINARY BURDEN TO ESTABLISH THE THRESHOLD ANNUAL DOLLAR VOLUME SO FAR DEPARTS FROM THE ACCEPTED AND USUAL COURSE OF JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS AS TO CALL FOR THE EXERCISE OF THE COURT’S SUPERVISORY POWERS.

Area of Law: Business Organizations & Contracts
Keywords: Fair Labor Standards Act; Burden to prove
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: 29 U.S.C. § 203(r); 29 U.S.C. § 203(s)(1)(A)(ii)
Date: 11/01/2007

In certain Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) civil enforcement actions, a key element of the Secretary of Labor’s causes of action would be to require the Secretary to establish that during the relevant time the Defendants operated an “enterprise” (within the meaning of 29 U.S.C. § 203(r)) that had an annual gross volume of sales made or business done, in commerce, in an amount not less than $500,000.  See 29 U.S.C. § 203(s)(1)(A)(ii); Falk v. Brennan, 414 U.S. 190 (1973).  As the Court observed in Falk:

            The [Fair Labor Standards] Act imposes its requirements, not on every “enterprise,” but only on an “enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce.”  One of the statutory elements of the latter term is the dollar-volume limitation which in this case is $500,000 annually.

 

Id. at 197 (footnotes omitted).  

In the Anglo-American system of jurisprudence, the plaintiff ordinarily must establish each element of his or her claim; conversely, except in extraordinary circumstances, the defendant is not required to prove the absence of an essential element of plaintiff’s claim.  Indeed, the lower courts acknowledged, at least in the abstract, the principle that it is the Secretary, who has the “burden to prove FLSA coverage.”  Chao v. Hotel Oasis, Inc., 493 F.3d 26, 29-30 (1st Cir. 2007). 

There is a distinction between a subject matter jurisdiction element and an ingredient of a claim for relief element. Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. […]

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