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One more thing to worry about: Add ‘Unjust enrichment’ to list of labor claims

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

Attorneys are always looking for additional ways to sue employers for alleged wrongs. Rather than file a lawsuit alleging just federal and state overtime violations, they’ll throw in a few other claims for good measure. That way, if one or more claims are tossed out, they’ll still have a shot at a jury trial and a big payday.

Recently, attorneys have added “unjust enrichment” to the growing list of legal claims lobbed at employers. Simply put, employers who receive a benefit from an employee can be sued if the employer’s retention of that benefit is inequitable.

Recent case: Juan Guerrero and several other Mexican nationals traveled to Michigan from Mexico to perform seasonal landscaping work under the federal H-2B visa program. They sued Lakewood Landscaping for alleged Fair Labor Standards Act and state labor-law violations, plus unjust enrichment.

The men, who each paid about $500 for visa applications, recruitment fees, housing and transportation costs and uniforms, claimed their payments were in effect wage deductions. If so, their pay would fall below the minimum wage, violating both federal and Michigan laws.

Lakewood asked the court to dismiss the men’s unjust enrichment claim, but it refused. Instead, the court said the men could move ahead in their attempt to show their $500 payments benefited Lakewood and were unfair to them. (Guerrero, et al., v. Brickman Group, No. 1:05-CV-00357, WD MI, 2007) 

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