Feds Can Sue for Social Workers’ Texas Overtime

     (CN) – Texas does not have immunity from a complaint seeking $1 million in unpaid overtime for Child Protective Service workers, the 5th Circuit ruled.
     The U.S. Department of Labor brought the lawsuit in 2011 on behalf of employees of Texas Child Protective Services. Texas moved to dismiss the lawsuit on sovereign immunity grounds, arguing that the Department of Labor was acting as a “nominal party” in place of the employees.
     An Austin federal judge denied the motion, and the New Orleans-based federal appeals court affirmed Wednesday.
     The three-judge panel found that sovereign immunity guarantees states cannot be sued by their own citizens without consent, but it does not prevent the federal government from suing a state.
     “As Texas concedes, this court has previously held that sovereign immunity does not bar a suit by the United States on behalf of individual citizens under the [Fair Labor Standards Act],” the unsigned opinion states. “A suit by the Secretary of Labor under the FLSA is a suit in the public interest, notwithstanding the fact that the money obtained passes to private individuals. Therefore, sovereign immunity does not apply to bar this suit.”
     Texas is accused of employing CPS employees over 40 hours per week without paying overtime wages, and not maintaining adequate records of the hours worked.
     The Department of Labor seeks an injunction against continuation of the practices, as well as an order disgorging Texas of the amounts due.
     The order would either require the state to submit payments to the secretary of Labor, who would then transmit the payments to CPS employees, or enjoin Texas from withholding previously unpaid overtime compensation from employees.

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