FORT LAUDERDALE – A Florida salesman filed a complaint against his former employer alleging that he wasn’t paid the minimum wage or overtime he was due.
In the complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Gus Irizarry said he was an employee of Excelium Management LLC from July 2016 to November 2016. According to its website, Excelium is a management consulting and business accelerator that invests in health care, legal, financial and education opportunities.
"These claims happen a lot in South Florida," Peter T. Mavrick, attorney at Mavrick Law Firm in Fort Lauderdale, told the Florida Record. "In fact, if you look at the entire U.S.A., ground zero for where the bomb is dropped is South Florida.”
According to Irizarry’s claim, Excelium Management LLC, Family Office LP, Vincent Chhabra, Sushma Chhabra, Key Legal Services LLC and Mitchell Hammer failed to pay him minimum wage or the overtime he was owed while he was an inside salesperson for the company. The claim cites the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Mavrick calls this act “the overtime wage law.”
As defined by the United States Department of Labor, the act says that covered, nonexempt workers must be paid at least $7.25 per hour, and those who work overtime must be paid at least 1.5 times the regular rate of pay.
Mavrick said that in order for this act to cover an individual, that person must first be at a company that meets certain financial and employee limits. The company must also engage in interstate commerce.
Mavrick also notes that the rules for exemption from the act are detailed.
“The majority of their compensation must come from commissions," he said. "Additionally, their hourly wage total must be one-half times the minimum wage.”
If a worker meets those requirements, then they are not covered and exempt from the act.
“If you’re a lawyer or doctor, for example, you’re most likely exempt," Mavrick said. "As a lawyer, I’m not covered by the act. I’m paid primarily on a commission basis, and I’m getting paid 1.5 times the minimum wage.”
For Irizarry to recover all of the damages he requests, including liquidated damages and legal fees, his legal representation will have to show that he was a covered, nonexempt employee of Excelium.
According to Mavrick, the Fair Labor Standards Act “isn’t a common-sense law,” which is one of the main reasons that South Florida courts see many cases similar to the one filed by Irizarry.
“In Florida, there are many small businesses without HR departments and they’re not familiar with the labor laws," he said. "Secondly, South Florida has many attorneys who know this area of law well, and advertise for it. Finally, this law is very technical. If you’re an attorney, you’ll understand precisely how to comply with it. A lot of businesses don’t know, so unless they’ve consulted with legal counsel, they frequently don’t comply.”
The majority of businesses in South Florida aren't breaking the law intentionally, he said.
"They just don’t even think about it," Mavrick said.
Irizarry is represented by Christopher J. Whitelock of Whitelock & Associates, P.A. in Fort Lauderdale.