Class Action Suit by State Workers Revived in the Court of Claims

Attorney Daniel J. McCarthy represents plaintiffs that sued the state, asserting they were denied overtime pay for services they were forced to perform outside their normal work hours.  This decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals gives hundreds — possibly thousands — of state employees a forum in which to address their claims.

The state had previously argued the Court of Claims lacked jurisdiction because the complaint was statutory and based on the FLSA, and the Court of Claims had dismissed the lawsuit.  However, after the plaintiffs appealed, the Legislature enacted Public Act 164.  In addition to immediately relocating the Court of Claims into the Court of Appeals, PA 164 also revised several statutes affecting the court, including MCL 600.6419(1)(a).  MCL 600.6419(1)(a) was changed to now say that the Court of Claims has power and jurisdiction “[t]o hear and determine any claim or demand, statutory or contractual, liquidated or unliquidated, ex contractu or ex delicto, . . . against the state or any of its departments.”  On appeal, the plaintiffs argued the Court of Claims decision should be reversed and remanded in light of new PA 164, and the Court of Appeals agreed in a published decision, Fulicea, et al. v. State of Michigan, et al.  “The Legislature clearly manifested its intent that the jurisdictional amendments be applied retroactively to pending cases,” the Court of Appeals said.

“While I believe that the FLSA and its policy was specifically designed to protect my clients, a semi-recent U.S. Supreme Court decision held that Congress overstepped its boundaries when it drafted the FLSA in terms of claims against the state and the 11th Amendment,” McCarthy said.  He went on to say that state employees had little protection under the FLSA because a lawsuit against the state could not be pursued unless the state clearly consented to be sued.