Ex-Dairy Worker Fights Back After Company Responds to Wage Suit by Trying to Have Him Deported

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Jose Arias, former Northern California dairy worker, recently won a million-dollar settlement against his ex-employer’s attorney. Arias originally filed a lawsuit against the dairy alleging wage theft. According to the plaintiff, Arias, the company’s attorney responded by contacting immigration officials to try to get the ex-dairy worker deported.

The retaliation suit against his former employer, Angelo Dairy of Acampo was already settled when the $1 million settlement was announced in the suit against attorney Anthony Raimondo. The settlement followed a federal court’s decision to reinstate Arias’ case. Representation for the plaintiff see the case as an example showing employers that they can’t game the system by cheating their employees of wages and then responding to complaints with threats to deport them.

The attorney who allegedly made the deportation threat, Raimondo, has 20 years of legal experience representing dairies out of Fresno. He denied retaliating against Arias and claimed that his former insurance company insisted the case be settled. Raimondo insists that he is the only person involved in the case who did not break the law.

Arias, an undocumented immigrant, started work with Angelo Dairy in 1995 as a milker. The dairy was supposed to file documents with federal officials that would verify Arias’ work authorization. Instead the employer used his undocumented status as a weapon to limit Arias’ options and keep him in their employ. In 1997, Arias told a company owner that he had a job offer from another dairy. The owner advised him that he would report the other dairy to immigration authorities if Arias took the offer. Arias stayed in his current position, but sued Angelo Dairy in 2006. He claimed the company’s failure to pay overtime and provide required meal and rest breaks were violations of labor law. In 2011, just prior to going to trial, Arias claims Raimondo, the dairy’s lawyer, contacted immigration agencies to purposefully derail the case.

Arias settled the wage suit and dropped his claims against the dairy farm. He says he did so, in substantial part, to avoid deportation. The court documents state that Raimondo contacted ICE a minimum of five times regarding other employees. He also allegedly confirmed his practice of contacting ICE in a June 2013 email to Legal Services Corp., in which he stated that he had acted in the past to deport workers who were suing his clients. Recent statements from Raimondo describe the events differently, insisting that the idea that he retaliated against Arias is ridiculous.

If you are experiencing retaliation in the workplace or if you need to discuss filing suit against an employer due to employment law violations, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Temecula Nail Salon Faces $1.2M Fine for California Wage Violations

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Employees of a Temecula, California nail salon called Young’s Nail Spa were listed as “independent contractors” so the salon owners could avoid payment of overtime or required meal and rest breaks during longer shifts. The salon faces a file of over $1.2 million for misclassification of workers, violation of wage and hour law, failure to pay overtime and provide required meal and rest breaks.

The salon is located on Margarita Road in Temecula and was under investigation by the California Department of Industrial Relations due to complaints about wage theft and other unlawful practices. In the course of the investigation, numerous irregularities were discovered. One of the most problematic was the shifts that Young’s Nail Spa employees were required to complete. Workers were spending 9 ½ to 10-hour days on the job. They were not provided meal or rest breaks. The Labor Commissioner said this was an attempt to get around overtime obligations through misclassification of employees as independent contractors.

In addition to denying workers their rightful pay, misclassification also gives employers an unfair advantage over competing, law-abiding businesses. According to California law, employers who provide their workers with less than minimum wage will be held responsible for paying the wages owed plus an equivalent amount in liquidated damages and interest when they are caught.

During the course of the investigation, auditors from the state went through 40 months of business records before determining that the salon engaged in misclassification and additional forms of wage theft. Citations totaled $670,040 for worker reimbursement and $572,187 in civil penalties.

If you have questions about wage and hour law or if you feel that you have been misclassified on the job, please get in touch with one of the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

California Contractor Fined $1.9M in Response to Wage Theft Claims

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Fullerton Pacific Interiors Inc., a California drywall contractor, was filed $1.9 million by California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement for failing to allow rest periods for workers (and other wage violations). The violations allegedly occurred on 26 different construction projects in different locations throughout Southern California.

The fine was handed down from California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, a.k.a. the Labor Commissioner’s Office – a part of the California Department of Industrial Relations. The fine was processed because the California drywall company failed to properly compensate almost 500 workers for rest periods as required by state and federal labor law. During the course of investigation, the division also found that almost 300 workers were not paid for overtime hours and almost 30 workers were paid less than minimum wage.

From the summer of 2014 through the summer of 2016, Fullerton Pacific Interiors Inc. was under contract to perform drywall work at a number of recreation centers: hotels, casinos, etc. All were located in three California counties: Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino. The Labor Commissioner noted that many contractors who embrace unscrupulous methods may try to obscure wage theft by providing workers with pay on a flat rate basis rather than an hourly rate. Yet a daily or any other flat rate system of pay does not override minimum wage and overtime requirements as defined by law.

According to the findings of the investigation, Fullerton workers were completing taping and drywall installation at the work sites. They were paid a daily rate that did not consider their overtime hours on the job. They were offered a 30-minute meal period, but no rest breaks throughout the day.

The fine accounts for:

·      $1,892,279 payable to workers (with $798,664 for rest period violations, $386,685 for unpaid overtime, and $692,500 for wage statement violations)

·      $72,400 civil penalty

·      Workers that were not paid minimum age were owed a total of $14,431 unpaid wages, liquidated damages, and waiting time penalties

If you have questions about unpaid overtime or if you are not receiving meal and rest breaks on the job in accordance with state and federal labor law, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Another Driver Wage and Hour Lawsuit Coming at GrubHub

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GrubHub is generating headlines again as they face another proposed collective and class action alleging they misclassified delivery drivers as independent contractors in order to get around the legal requirements to pay minimum wage and overtime pay. A pair of workers have filed suit against the company in Illinois federal court. The company, which takes orders for food from customers through a mobile app or online and then has delivery drivers obtain and deliver the items, has dealt with similar accusations in the past.

The two plaintiffs who filed suit, Carmen Wallace and Broderick Bryant, made allegations that the GrubHub Inc. and GrubHub Holdings Inc. violated the Fair Labor Standards Act as well as both Illinois and California labor law when they classify drivers as independent contractors. The plaintiffs claim that the GrubHub delivery service exerts a substantial amount of control over the work performed by their drivers and relies on the completion of their job duties to run the overall business.

According to the complaint, the GrubHub delivery drivers are currently classified as independent contractors but should actually be classified as employees according to standards set down by law as the company directs the drivers’ work in detail, they instruct drivers on where to report for their work shifts, they tell drivers how to dress and where to go to pick up or wait for orders scheduled for delivery.

Virtually identical claims are being made in another Illinois federal court case called Souran v. GrubHub Holdings Inc.

Numerous drivers for the company tried to opt in to the Souran case after the deadline, but GrubHub would not agree to add them so they filed a new case for late-submitted opt-ins. The Souran group was granted conditional certification as a collective action in February 2017, but was stayed by the Seventh Circuit until the U.S. Supreme Court produced a ruling on another case, Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis et al. The high court ruling came down in May ruling employment agreements barring workers from bringing class actions permissible. As GrubHub drivers sign this type of agreement when they start work with the company, the Seventh Circuit sent Souran back to district court for additional proceedings in accordance with the ruling of the high court.

Raef Lawson also has a similar suit pending against GrubHub before the Ninth Circuit. Lawson is urging the appeals court to revive his action. It was dismissed in February after the lower court found he was an independent contractor in spite of his claims that he should be classified as an employee.

The action filed by Wallace and Bryant raises most of the same claims. The plaintiffs note a number of different work conditions that are indicative of employee status: drivers work scheduled shifts, drivers must remain available to accept assignments during shifts, drivers are subject to termination if they don’t listen to the company’s dispatchers who are advising them where to go and when to be there, etc.

If you have concerns regarding misclassification in the workplace or if you aren’t being paid overtime you are due, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Wage & Hour Settlement In Case of Nurses Classified as Exempt

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A settlement was proposed to settle a wage and hour class action lawsuit alleging that nurses and other medical personnel were misclassified as exempt by Health Resource Solutions Inc. The plaintiff group included both registered nurses and clinicians. The proposed settlement was for $738,000 to close out the overtime class action lawsuit.

The case was founded on the allegations that 79 workers were wrongfully classified as exempt from overtime. Both parties involved in the case agreed on the settlement amount. The plaintiffs noted that estimate distribution amounts to claimants should represent close to 90% of maximum individual claims for overtime wages (exclusive of liquidated/other damages under FLSA and IMWL). April 19th was set as the final approval hearing for the settlement.

The company, Health Resource Solutions, will retain $162,000 of the original proposed settlement amount of $900,000. The amount of the proposed settlement was reduced after a smaller number of plaintiffs became claimants (only 79 of the expected 175 that was originally estimated). The unclaimed settlement funds totaling $162,126.77 will be kept by Health Resource Solutions.

Plaintiffs’ counsel requested that the judge approve legal fees to be taken out of the settlement fund totaling $300,000. The fee was 1/3 of the original settlement amount but will be 41% of the final settlement fund if the request is approved. Attorneys argued that their actions resolved the case prior to incurring the expense of lengthy class action litigation, trial costs, and likely appeals to the court’s decisions.

Monique B. originally filed the complaint in 2016 alleging that the company, HRS or Health Resource Solutions, wrongfully classified their employees – leaving them exempt from overtime they legally deserved. This was done in violation of both the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Illinois Minimum Wage Law (IMWL). In order for an employee to be legally classified as exempt they must meet very specific requirements.

If you have questions about overtime violations or other violations of California labor law, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

$9.2M Settlement Could Resolve Driver Wage Claims

A number of trucking companies including Roadrunner Intermodal Services LLC agreed to pay $9.2 million in order to end claims made in California federal court by a putative class of truck drivers. The 796 California drivers in the class claim that they were misclassified as independent contractors. Defendants in the case are: Roadrunner, Central Cal Transportation LLC and Morgan Southern Inc. Drivers in the class worked for the various transportation companies as independent contractors from February 2011 to the time of the proposed settlement. Class members would receive $7,255 on average if the proposed settlement is approved.

Drivers allege that the trucking companies should not have classified them as independent contractors. They allegedly should have been classified as employees and therefore should have been provided with overtime wages, benefit from minimum wage requirements, separation wages, business expenses, meal and rest breaks, and accurate wage statements. Allegedly, the companies failed to fulfill these requirements in violation of a number of state and federal labor laws. The trucking companies deny the alleged violations.

Three different groups of drivers sued the Defendants with similar allegations over the course of three years:

·      February 2015, California state court – moved in April 2015 to federal court

·      September 2015 in federal court

·      January 2016

The above three cases were combined in early 2017. The putative class’ counsel estimated the maximum amount of damages faced by the drivers at $77 million. Yet the drivers are aware that there is no guarantee that they would receive anywhere close to this amount if the case were to proceed to certification and trial. Additionally, there is no guarantee that defendants would be capable of paying anywhere close to that estimated maximum considering the companies’ financial situation.

The motion for preliminary approval estimates that the class members participating in the suit would have access to $5.8 million after fees for attorneys, etc. are deducted. As long as the qualifying workweeks remain unchanged at 41,846 the drivers should receive approximately $140 per work week that is eligible.

If you need assistance with wage claims or you fear that you aren’t receiving accurate wage statements or overtime pay as required by law, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.