Preliminary approval was granted for a $6 million settlement struck between Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and company employees alleging their paychecks were shorted, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Erica P. Grosjean is wary as it appears that the union is hiding something. After giving an early sign-off to the proposed agreement, the judge ruled that the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245 must disclose how much they are paying into the settlement prior to it being finalized. PG&E call center employees allege that the union does not fairly represent them as members.
The judge noted that the hardest part of the workers’ unopposed motion for approval of the deal method of notification to employees about amounts PG&E and the IBEW would each pay into the fund. The judge brought notice to the fact that the union was the only party that objected to the contribution disclosure. The union’s desire to keep their contribution amount undisclosed greatly troubled the judge. Judge Grosjean stated that without disclosure workers would assume payment came from PG&E.
The judge didn’t see any legitimate reason for delaying disclosure of the amount paid until after the settlement is finalized. It gave the impression that the union the information could affect the workers’ decision to accept the settlement’s terms. The judge also stated that the situation left the impression that the union may plan to bury the information eventually disclosed in annual financial reports where workers would not notice or pay attention to the information.
The lawsuit was originally filed in July 2015, alleging:
· PG&E violated California’s labor law.
· PG&E failed to pay all wages owed.
· PG&E falsely advertised wages on a website for a customer service position.
· PG&E had a consistent policy and practice of failing to abide by the IBEW’s collective bargaining agreement.
The proposed settlement would apply to workers hired for the call center from January 2022 through June of 2015 with a minimum of 18 months of clerical job experience and who were affected by the alleged violations. It is alleged that 175 workers would receive close to $20,000 each because their work experience qualifies them for a higher wage rate. Other workers would receive $250.
If you have questions about California labor law violations or if you need assistance with wage and hour violations, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.