Court Rules for Employees in Termination from CPA Firm

By Baliga, Wayne | Journal of Accountancy, September 1995 | Go to article overview

Court Rules for Employees in Termination from CPA Firm


Baliga, Wayne, Journal of Accountancy


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that an employer who discharges employees for exercising their rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act may be subject to an action for back pay and job reinstatement.

This case began in the fall of 1986. John Davis, a CPA and owner of John C. Davis, P.A., paid his employees overtime during the tax season. The rest of the year, he granted them one hour off for every hour of overtime.

One of the firm's employees, Darlene Smiley, requested pay for all overtime instead of time off. The firm refused. Smiley filed a complaint with the Department of Labor in the fall of 1987. In the investigation, the DOL interviewed a co-worker of Smiley's, Cynthia Fellows. After the investigation, the DOL ruled that the firm's system of giving employees time off in lieu of pay was unlawful. On September 20, 1987, the CPA paid five employees the amounts due for unpaid overtime. Three days later he fired Smiley and Fellows.

The firm was subsequently sued by the secretary of labor for discharging the employees in retaliation for their filing a complaint or testifying in a DOL investigation. At the trial court hearing, the CPA argued that he had fired the employees for filing false claims that "he did not pay overtime." The CPA argued he paid a significant amount of overtime during the tax season and, therefore, this claim was false. …

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