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Clearwater woman says Avmed owes her overtime wages in class-action suit

By Jessica Caimi | Feb 26, 2017

TAMPA — A Clearwater woman says that her former employer incorrectly classified her employee status and alleges that the company failed to pay her all of the wages she was due. 

Christie Stone was an employee of Avmed Inc., based in Tampa. According to the company website, Avmed is a provider of not-for-profit health plans, providing coverage to South Florida, Orlando, Gainesville, and Jacksonville markets.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Stone was working as a sales consultant for Avmed health plans.

On Feb. 8, Stone filed a class-action complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida alleging that Avmed classified her as an employee exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). That act guarantees overtime to all nonexempt employees.

In her complaint, Stone claims she worked more than 40 hours per week without being paid any overtime and because of her job responsibilities, she should receive overtime as is stipulated in the Fair Labor Standards Act. 

Stone is requesting a trial by jury and seeks all wages, liquidated damages, interest and all legal fees, in addition to any other relief the court thinks is appropriate.

Donna Ballman, an employee-side employment law attorney and author of the upcoming book Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired, told the Florida Record that there are many class-action cases for wages and hours in Florida and also notes that “most lawsuits of any variety settle. These (class actions) are no exception.”

Often these types of cases come down to what Stone’s specific job duties may have been, Ballman said. 

“It’s not clear what her job duties were, but the issue may be outside sales v. inside sales," she said. "Outside salespeople have a specific exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act.” 

According to the FLSA, if the employee’s primary duty was making regular sales away from Avmed’s places of business, then the exemption may stand.

Ballman also explained another exemption possibility, which says that if an employee is working in a retail or service establishment with a rate of pay exceeding one and one-half times the minimum wage and with more than half the total wages coming from commissions, then the employee is not covered by the act and not guaranteed overtime. 

These are just two of many possibilities.

“There are, of course, many other exemptions under the law, so it will be interesting to see which exemption the employer claims this employee fell under," Ballman said.

Since Stone filed a class-action, Ballman also said it’s possible that there are too many plaintiffs to name each one in a suit against Avmed, and it's more likely a hundred or a thousand compared to two or three people.

There are upsides and downsides to filing this sort of class-action claim.

“The advantage is the employer now faces higher stakes and may feel more pressure to settle," Ballman said. "The downside is they are harder to litigate, require lawyers with special experience in class-scions, and it’s difficult to settle one claim during a class action.”

Stone is represented by Mitchell L. Feldman of Mitchell L. Feldman, Esq. P.A. in Tampa.

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U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida