SIXTH CIRCUIT FINDS CONTRACT CANNOT SHORTEN FLSA STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
The statute of limitations for the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is two years for non-willful violations and three years for willful violations. FedEx sought to limit the applicable statute of limitations in agreements signed by its employees, including the plaintiff in Boaz v. FedEx Customer Information Services, Inc., a case out of the federal Sixth Circuit (which covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee). The employment contract limited legal actions against FedEx to “the time prescribed by law or 6 months from the date of the event forming the basis of [the] lawsuit, whichever expires first.”
Boaz claimed that she was paid less than a male counterpart for performing the same duties. She brought her claim under the FLSA and the Equal Pay Act more than six months, but less than three years, after FedEx issued her the last allegedly deficient paycheck. Relying upon U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the Sixth Circuit concluded that the limitations in Boaz’s employment agreement impermissibly waived her FLSA rights.
The court further concluded that the prohibition on waiving FLSA rights also applied to Boaz’s Equal Pay Act claims because Congress enacted the Equal Pay Act as an amendment to the FLSA, and an employer which pays women less than a lawful minimum wage might gain a competitive advantage. The court distinguished agreements which shorten an employer’s limitations period under statutes other than the FLSA, such as Title VII, by noting that employees can waive their claims under Title VII and that an employer who violates Title VII by refusing to hire African-Americans or some other racial group does not gain the same competitive advantage as an employer which pays less than minimum wage.
Therefore, the limitations provision of Boaz’s employment agreement was invalid with respect to her FLSA and Equal Pay Act claim.