Dallas lawyer Allen Vaught, who represents auto-repair technicians in a Fair Labor Standards Act class action, says he had a question for prospective jurors during voir dire: Would they hold it against his clients that they had not kept records of their work hours?

He says one woman raised her hand and pointed out that she had no trouble recording her hours when she played tennis, so why would the plaintiffs not keep track of their work time?

Based on that response, Vaught, managing attorney for the employment law section of Baron & Budd, says he persuaded visiting Judge David Cleveland to strike her and 10 others for cause. But the woman’s response made him realize the challenges he faced at trial, he says, even though federal law doesn’t require workers to keep such records.

Despite those challenges, Vaught’s clients won Czarnecki and All Others Similarly Situated v. Diesel Pros LLC, et al. On Aug. 23, Cleveland issued a final judgment awarding the plaintiffs a total of $250,000, including $150,000 in attorney fees.

“Even if we hadn’t gotten that judgment, trying this case would have been worth it, just to see these guys get their day in court, because their employer was having them work all kinds of hours and calling them independent contractors,” says Vaught.

In their Sept. 15, 2010, petition, the plaintiffs, who worked at Diesel Pros, alleged they regularly were required to work more than 40 hours a week without overtime pay. They sued Diesel Pros and owner Mike Kelley alleging, among other things, that the defendants violated the FLSA and the Texas Payday Act. The plaintiffs sought back pay and damages.

In their Oct. 22, 2010, answers, Diesel Pros and Kelley denied the allegations and argued the claims were so general that the defendants had not received fair notice. John DeVoss of Smith DeVoss in North Richland Hills, who represents Diesel Pros and Kelley, did not return a telephone call and email seeking comment.

On Aug. 17, after two years of litigation and a 10-day trial, the Tarrant County jury in the 153rd District Court returned a verdict finding that seven of the nine plaintiffs were due compensation for overtime. [See the jury charge and the judgment.]

In addition to the attorney fees, the final judgment awarded back pay and, “[s]hould Defendants force Plaintiffs to engage in collection efforts, the Court also awards Baron & Budd, P.C. and Oberti Sullivan LLP reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs to enforce this judgment.”

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