A United States District Judge in Florida has publicly opined that FLSA suits are “basically nuisance type claims that get bought off” and little more than attorneys’ “retirement bills” that require congressional reform Employment Law 360 reported. Judge Kenneth L. Ryskamp of the Southern District of Florida made these statements and is now facing a motion for recusal.
While no Connecticut Federal Judge is known to have made these statements, it is nevertheless alarming to hear that any federal judge would make such remarks.
Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938 as part of the New Deal. It has been modified many times, including as recently as 2004. It is an important law that helps employees obtain fair compensation for the hours they work. Employees who bring claims under these laws are not looking for emotional distress awards, they are only asking to be paid for the hours they worked.
Many times, employees do not understand their rights, including that they have been misclassified under the FLSA. Accordingly, the law includes a mechanism to allow employees and their attorneys to invite other similarly situated employees into the litigation. If this provision did not exist, other employees who were also the victims of wage violations, would not have a reasonable chance to advance their claims.
Judge Ryskamp’s comments are deplorable. They fall in line with the same mentality that sought to blame UAW workers for the demise of the auto industry. Workers in America deserve to be paid the wages they have earned. The fact that wages in America have been historically low has been a contributing factor to the economic crisis we are in. What merchant wouldn’t wish that his customers had more money to spend buying his products?
The FLSA’s collective action provisions do not need congressional reform. To the contrary, what is needed are more lawyers like attorney Shavitz and his firm to enforce this important law. Judge Ryskamp should be removed from the case and never permitted to preside over another FLSA case.