Go in with strength, come out with a win
DeWolff, Boberg & Associates (DBA) is a privately-held management consulting firm and longstanding Crowell & Moring client. DBA was sued in federal court in Dallas in a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by seven former employees who claimed their management consultant job was misclassified as exempt from the overtime pay requirements of the FLSA. FLSA misclassification cases are difficult for employers to defend, because the employer has the burden of proof on the classification issue. Further, because salaried exempt employees typically do not keep records of hours worked, potential damages in a misclassification case can be significant.
While most FLSA misclassification cases settle, we litigated this case from the outset with the mindset that we would take it all the way to verdict, if necessary. DBA was confident of its legal position and the strength of our factual presentation to a jury. In addition to being aggressive with several pre-trial motions that reduced the size of the class, our strategy focused on developing a persuasive story for the jury as to the importance of the work performed by management consultants. We convinced the judge at the final pre-trial conference to bifurcate the case so that the trial focused only on the classification issue. We also convinced the judge to permit DBA to both open and close. We were strategic in using voir dire to help "sell" our case to the jury. The client helped us select a number of witnesses who were very impressive in describing at trial the complex nature of the work they performed.
The jury returned a defense verdict for DBA in just under one hour.