Farmworkers Overtime Pay Lawsuit Before Washington Supreme Court

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The Washington Supreme Court will decide whether or not farmworkers must receive overtime wages – after striking down agricultural pay practices twice in recent years. While a hearing isn't yet set, both sides are preparing their case with potentially hundreds of millions of dollars a year in additional costs at risk. According to state law, workers receive overtime pay after eight hours a day or after a 40-hour week. The question before the Washington Supreme Court is whether or not the state law requiring overtime pay should apply to farmworkers. Naysayers insist that inflicting this high cost on a vital portion of the state's economy is unreasonable. But does exempting agriculture from paying workers time-and-a-half for overtime hours violate the state constitution?

Other recent farm-pay lawsuits led the Supreme Court to find that piece-rate workers must be paid separately for rest periods and downtime.  The current overtime lawsuit launched off a 2016 lawsuit against a local dairy farm in Yakima County. Court records indicate that Jose Martinez-Cuevas and Patricia Aguilar, named plaintiffs in the case, worked at DeRuyter Brothers Dairy for just over a year. The owners sold the dairy settled the majority of the claims, but the Superior Court judge's ruling on overtime specifically was inconclusive. This case's main issue will skip the court of appeals as the Supreme Court agreed to take on the question.

In 1959 the Legislature exempted agriculture from the state's minimum wage law guaranteeing workers overtime pay. The lawmakers were acting under the 1938 federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Legal counsel for the plaintiffs argues that the federal agricultural exemption has historic racism at its roots. They claim Southern lawmakers created the exemption to limit the pay of black farmworkers. They argue that Washington lawmakers adopting the legislation did not consider the exemption's racist history. Arguments for the plaintiffs are based on a combination of the alleged racial history of the law excluding agricultural workers and the current racial makeup of the excluded agricultural workforce being close to 100% minority. Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case insist the exclusion should be declared unconstitutional.

Those arguing against the Plaintiffs' case claim the fixation on the racial makeup of the current agricultural workforce has no relevance, noting that in 1959 the farmworker population was 85% white workers. They attribute the exemption to the nature of agriculture rather than racism. As an inherently seasonal business, proponents of the current interpretation of the law argue that overtime during certain times of the year is natural and necessary for the industry.

If you have questions about overtime law or who receives overtime pay, the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP can help. Get in touch with the location nearest you: San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange or Chicago.

California Labor Code Lawsuit Alleges RFI Enterprises Failed to Pay Overtime

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A California Labor Code lawsuit was recently filed against RFI Enterprises. According to the suit, the company wrongfully denied their employee overtime.

Plaintiff, Brian P., was employed at RFI Enterprises’ San Jose location. The company is a multi-systems integrator established in 1979 that does business across the nation with offices in California, Washington and Nevada. They install and monitor fire and life safety solutions. They offer a number of different systems: life safety systems, electronic access control, intrusion detection, closed circuit television, alarms, and fire safety. Their monitoring center provides 24/7 support to their various systems.

According to California labor law, employers are required to pay overtime. The required overtime pay rate is one and a half times the regular rate of pay for any hours worked over eight in one day or 40 in one week. According to the plaintiff in this case, the company did not factor wage premiums or shift differential pay into the regular rate of pay used to calculate their overtime pay rates.

According to the overtime lawsuit against RFI Enterprises, the company calculated overtime pay rates that were based on the employees’ base hourly rate of pay. This resulted in a lower overtime pay rate below the minimum overtime pay rate required by law. California labor law also requires that employers provide their employees with accurate wage statements. The plaintiff in the case also alleges that the employer was in violation of this regulation.

Not only does the plaintiff claim that the company was in violation of overtime pay rates and the regulation requiring that they provide accurate wage statements, but that the company did so maliciously and intentionally. According to the complaint, the company was unwilling to current their unfair business practices.

RFI Enterprises, the Defendants, allegedly engaged and have continued to engage in both unfair and unlawful business practices as detailed above. The plaintiff proposes to represent a class of employees in the California class action. A subclass has also been proposed to represent employees paid shift differential pay after Jan. 12, 2017.

If you fear your employer is in violation of California labor code or you have questions about what makes an employee exempt from overtime, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Home Depot Faces Former Employee's Allegations of Overtime Violations

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Marco A. Batani, out of San Diego, recently filed suit against Home Depot, alleging unlawful business practices and failure to pay overtime. The complaint was filed January 2018 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. In Batani’s complaint, it states that he was employed at Home Depot between 2016 and 2017 as a sales consultant, but that he was misclassified as an outside salesperson. Yet his duties while on the job consisted of mainly non-exempt tasks.

In promotional materials describing potential careers with The Home Depot, the one-stop shop for customers building a home, the company describes a warm workplace culture. The company website states that they couldn’t have “done it without the culture and feeling of home and family among the associates in our stores, distribution centers and corporate office.” Yet the claims made by Batani in the recent California overtime lawsuit paint a far different picture of the situation.

In Batani’s suit, he claims that during his employment he consistently worked over eight hours per day and more than 40 hours per week – without being provided with the legally required overtime compensation. (According the FLSA, employers are required to provide overtime pay for any hours worked beyond “full time.” The law also defines full time as 8 hours per day and/or 40 hours/week.) 

Batani also alleges that he was not provided with the legally required meal periods and was not reimbursed for all job expenses.

In addition to the above allegations, Batani claims that Home Depot USA failed to provide employees with wages due at separation, failed to provide timely and accurate wage statements, and failed to reimburse business expenses. All of the allegations are in vio0lation of state law.

Batani seeks a trial by jury. He filed suit to seek damages of $100, an aggregate penalty up to $4,000, compensatory and liquidated damages, nominal damages, restitution and disgorgement, punitive and exemplary damages and attorneys’ fees. He also seeks any additional relief the court may deem just in the situation.

If you have questions about overtime pay or if your employer is refusing to provide you with required meal and rest breaks, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

California Based Newspaper Fires Employees Who Demanded Overtime With Expensive Consequences

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Can a company fire an employee because they sued for back overtime? Recent news indicates that the answer is no – at least in California. This is exactly what Joong-Ang, publisher of Korea Daily (a Korean language newspaper based in California), found out when the court ordered him to pay $584,612 to three former employees.

The story began in June of 2013. Three of the newspaper’s employees filed a California overtime lawsuit alleging that they were not paid overtime wages as required by law. Only a couple months later – the three employees were fired from their jobs with Korea Daily.

Some claim this was a coincidence – which is arguable considering the fact that on the same day the three employees who filed suit were let go, all the employees at the same printing facility were also let go. Yet all the employees let go from that printing facility were rehired by another company that took over the operations – all except the three employees who filed a California overtime lawsuit against the newspaper. According to the three plaintiffs, they were not advised of the opportunity alongside their co-workers.

When they discovered what had happened, the three now unemployed workers added more claims to their suit including wrongful termination.

The courts sided with the plaintiffs. They won the case. The Korean language newspaper appealed, but late last month, Korea Daily lost their appeal.

According to California Labor Code Section 1199, it is illegal for an employer to fail to provide overtime wages in accordance with the Industrial Welfare Commission. As occurred in this case, the employees have the right to overtime wages and may exercise that right (in this situation by filing an overtime lawsuit). If the employer then terminates the employee for exercising their right to overtime pay, the worker could be entitled to additional “damages” due to wrongful termination.

So, essentially, Joong-Ang, the publisher of Korea Daily, was ordered by the court to pay $584,000 for firing employees who demanded they be paid overtime the company was required to pay by law. If you are a company in California make sure you are familiar with both federal and state overtime rules. Employees are entitled to overtime and are seeking restitution in court more than ever before.

If you are a California business that needs assistance with employment law violations or if you are a California employee who is not paid overtime pay, please get in touch with one of the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.