Are you, like many other underemployed lawyers, slaving away in the salt-mines that are document review? Do you long to see the light of day and escape from the long hours and tedium? Well, salvation may be on the way – or at least a bigger paycheck instead of that measly salary you are currently receiving that doesn’t even cover rent and doesn’t make a dent in your student loan balance. You may just be eligible for overtime for all those hours above 40 per week you have been working. You could even become the lead plaintiff in a collective action.
Just ask David Lola for some tips. He’s the lawyer/document reviewer down in North Carolina who spent his working hours toiling over Skadden documents. That is, until he used his legal skills to sue the firm and Tower Legal Staffing, the legal staffing company that assigned him to the Skadden account. (Tower Legal Staffing? Yes, that’s its name. Kinda evokes that stuck in the dungeon feel, doesn’t it?)
Here’s the background. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides that workers who put in more than 40 hours per week for their employer must be paid time-and-a-half for those extra hours. Unless they are classified as “exempt,” that is. And lawyers fit into an exempt classification called “professional” because we are highly educated, highly trained practitioners of law. But Lola disputed the notion that document review is legal work. Lola was paid $25 per hour for reviewing documents Skadden provided. The firm also provided search terms. Lola worked on average about fifty hours per week – sometimes more. He always received his regular hourly pay – no more.
He sued and wanted to become the lead plaintiff in a collective action for overtime pay. The payoff could be big since the FLSA provides an automatic doubling of unpaid overtime to the winner. The lower court shot down his claim, concluding that he fit neatly into the professional exemption. Like any good lawyer would do, he appealed. And he just won, thanks to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. It issued an opinion this morning declaring that document review isn’t legal work because it does not involve using judgment, making Lola eligible for overtime pay. The panel of judges concluded that Lola provided “services that a machine could have provided.” Ouch. But hey, document reviewers of the world, unite! It’s litigation time.
[Post image via Shutterstock]