Quantum meruit and unjust enrichment in FLSA cases

Overtime attorneys are constantly seeking ways to recover the maximum amount of money for their clients.  A typical overtime lawsuit involves the assertion of a claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  But other state law claims may also be available.  In Texas, the equitable remedy of recovery is called quantum meruit, which is an implied agreement to pay for benefits received and knowingly accepted. Heldenfels Bros., Inc. v. City of Corpus Christi, 832 S.W.2d 39, 41 (Tex. 1992). When one party has rendered services for another person and there has been no payment for those services, this would result in unjust enrichment to the party who benefitted from the work. In order to recover under the quantum meruit theory, the person suing for money, the plaintiff, must establish:

  1. valuable services and/or materials were furnished, 
  2. to the party sought to be charged, 
  3. which were accepted by the party sought to be charged, and 
  4. under such circumstances as reasonably notified the recipient that the plaintiff, in performing, expected to be paid by the recipient. Heldenfels Bros., 832 S.W.2d at 41 (citing Vortt Exploration Co. v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 787 S.W.2d 942, 944 (Tex. 1990)).

Two Texas cases that illustrate the applicability of quantum meruit claims when overtime is involved are Floridia v. DLT 3 GIRLS, Inc., No. 4:11-cv-3624 (S.D. Tex. Jan. 9, 2013) and Zamalloa v. Thompson Landscape Services, Inc.,, No. 4:17-cv-00519-ALM-KJP (E.D. Tex. 2018). 

In Floridia, the plaintiff filed a FLSA lawsuit alleging violations of unpaid overtime saying that he “did not get paid at all for the work he completed” and a second claim for quantum meruit. In response, the Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on the quantum meruit claim. The Court looked at whether the quantum meruit claim could have been preempted by the FLSA claim of unpaid overtime. Whether a federal statute preempts state law is a question of law reserved for the court. Franks Inv. Co. LLC v. Union Pacific R.R. Co., 593 F.3d 404, 407 (5th CIr. 2010). The FLSA does not expressly preempt state law, so the Court analyzed the possibility of implied preemption. Floridia, No. 4:11-cv-3624. While some Texas Courts have held that allowing a state law claim to proceed with a FLSA claim would be duplicative, this Court held otherwise. The Plaintiff brought a quantum meruit claim that fell outside the overtime provisions of the FLSA. Id. The FLSA does not address claims for compensation for hours worked in a week that are not in excess of the statutory forty, which gave the Supreme Court the power to coin these claims as ‘gap time.’ Id. The Court held that “considering the Plaintiff is essentially alleging a ‘gap time’ claim not covered by the FLSA, the quantum meruit claim does not conflict with the FLSA and its remedies.” Id. The Defendants’ motion for summary judgement was therefore denied. 

Also, in Zamalloa, the Plaintiffs filed their FLSA complaint against their employer alleging that they regularly worked more than 40 hours per week without receiving overtime pay. Zamalloa, No. 4:17-cv-00519-ALM-KJP (E.D. Tex. 2018). The Plaintiffs said the Defendants were unjustly enriched by failing to pay the Plaintiffs for services provided and already accepted by Defendants. Id. In response, the Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint arguing that the contract and quantum meruit claims were preempted by federal law so they should be dismissed.

The court looked at the facts and evidence of the case and held that the overtime violations alleged by the Plaintiffs were valid. Id. Specifically, the court said that the “Plaintiffs have sufficiently asserted the elements of their state law contract and quantum meruit claims, and those elements do not rely on an asserted violation of any federal law.” Id. Accordingly, the motion to dismiss was denied. 

Additionally, for the quantum meruit, the court held that because the Plaintiffs had sufficiently asserted elements of their quantum meruit claims, those elements did not rely on an asserted violation of any federal law. Id. Since work and services had already been provided and accepted by the Defendants, there was ample reason to deny the quantum meruit defenses.  

Quantum meruit is a powerful recovery tool for Plaintiffs when they can establish that they have provided valuable services or work to the Defendant, the Defendant has accepted the services and work, and the Defendant had reasonable notice that the Plaintiff expected to the paid for the work. Have you provided services and/or worked overtime and have not been paid? You might have a claim to recoup your back wages. Consider speaking with an experienced overtime pay attorney who handles these matters. Josh Borsellino is a licensed Texas attorney that will fight for your unpaid wages. Call him today at 817.908.9861 or 432.242.7118.

Share This Post