California Court Grants Wells Fargo Loan Officers Class Action in Pay Dispute

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California-based Wells Fargo loan officers recently filed suit alleging that they were improperly compensated (Kang v. Wells Fargo Bank). The lawsuit could now have even greater implications as the plaintiffs have been granted class certification by the California court.

The issue in the case is to determine whether state was violated when Wells Fargo allegedly conducted “clawbacks” of hourly wages, vacation and separation pay from earned sales commissions. Allegedly, Wells Fargo made a practice of compensating its mortgage sales force using advances on their commissions at a basic rate of around $12/hour, then “clawback” the hourly pay from commissions and vacation pay as they were earned.

James C. Kang, plaintiff in the case, claimed that the clawbacks were in violation of a number of state labor laws that related to employee compensation, including: overtime pay, minimum wage requirements, and vacation pay requirements because they left members of the sales force affected by the practice unpaid for tasks they were required to fulfill by the company that were unrelated to direct sales. Kang also alleged in court documents that members of the sales force who were promised vacation pay did not actually receive it due to the clawbacks.

The bank claims that the pay structure used to compensate home mortgage consultants is compliant with California wage and hour laws, including paying for all hours worked and that the compensation structure allows mortgage workers to earn a competitive, performance-based wage.

Since Well Fargo implemented a mandatory arbitration provision for its sales force on December 11, 2015, the judge ordered those hired or rehired after that date to be excluded from class certification. All other nonexempt employees of Wells Fargo as of October 27, 2013 working as home mortgage consultants or private mortgage bankers, junior HMCs or junior PMBs are part of the class. A subclass is included in the class certification for individuals who were terminated from their employment.

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

Tender Heart Home Care Agency Overtime Wage Suit Sees Decision Reversal

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Many have heard the story of the California caregiver who alleged she was not paid overtime. Followers of the story will be interested to know that the case has been remanded back to a lower court by a state appellate court. Judge Mark Simons, on the bench of California’s 1st District Court of Appeals, issued the ruling on January 11th, 2019. His reversal of the Contra Costa County Superior Court’s decision in the Duffey v. Tender Heart Home Care Agency LLC has the story back in the news.

In the ruling, the judge stated that the trial court was in error when they exclusively applied the so-called “common law” test and that there is a dispute of fact as to whether or not Duffey was an employee of Tender Heart Home Care Agency LLC.  

Duffey filed suit against Tender Heart alleging that the health care company was in violation of the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights or DWBR. This California state law requires domestic workers to receive overtime pay if they work more than nine hours in a day or more than 45 hours in a week.

Case documents indicate that the plaintiff signed a form contract with the company, Tender Heart, in 2011 that was titled “Professional Caregiver Agreement.” The agreement stated that Tender Heart is a “caregiver placement agency whose business is to obtain contracts for caregivers in dwellings and to refer by subcontract such contracts to professional independent caregivers.” It also stated that Duffey was an “independent domestic worker…in the business of providing care giving services in dwellings and hereby solicits such contract for services from [the company].”

Once DWBR was put in place in 2014, Duffey did not receive pay for her overtime hours. She filed suit against Tender Heart in December 2015. The lower court, Contra Costa County Superior Court, decided in favor of the health care agency, considering that Duffey was an independent contractor and not an employee of Tender Heart.

If you need help obtaining overtime compensation or if you need to talk to an experienced California employment law attorney about whether or not you are eligible for overtime wages in the workplace, please get in touch with Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP as soon as possible.

Walmart Class Action Suit: Cashiers Allege Retail Giant Knows Seating is Feasible

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In early January 2018, the 80,000 member class of Walmart cashiers alleging that the big box store was in violation of state law due to the failure to provide them with seating on the job made the notable claim that when the company provided seats to cashiers with disabilities, they conceded that seating for cashiers was feasible. This claim that the company has already (through their actions towards cashiers with disabilities) acknowledged that the work of a Walmart cashier permits seating was made in California federal court in support of allegations in their suit.

The class argued that in light of last year’s California Supreme Court ruling that companies are required to provide seats if the work can be done sitting down, the big box store’s obvious acknowledgement that the work can be completed while sitting leaves them with no excuse for not allowing all their cashiers to sit.

When determining how best to accommodate cashiers with disabilities, both Walmart’s safety and compliance department and Walmart’s own Americans with Disabilities Act experts tested and later approved ergonomic reaches and ranges of motion relevant to the work of a seated cashier stationed in the ADA check-out lanes. Walmart chose the specific seat to be offered to disabled cashiers themselves in order to ensure that the situation would be acceptable for both the company’s findings regarding required work and situational necessities.

The action was originally launched by Lead Plaintiff and former cashier, Kathy Williamson, in the Superior Court for Alameda County in summer of 2009. It was moved to federal court at a later date. U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila granted the motion to certify class in 2012, finding that there was a common nature of work amongst the California Walmart cashiers. He also concluded that a trier of common facts could pinpoint exactly what designated tasks could be performed while cashiers were seated.

The Defendant appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit. The appellate court affirmed the decision in June. This was just two months after the state Supreme Court defined the state’s seating rule in the Kilby v. CVS Pharmacy Inc. decision. In this decision, the court determined that employees must be provided with seats if the work they are completing can be done in a seated position even if they aren’t performing the same task all day long. The class of Walmart cashiers argued that the Kilby decision controlled the case and that Walmart has shown on numerous occasions that being seated would not prevent their cashiers from performing their duties (i.e. Walmart productivity study, and study on negative perception in 2007). The case is scheduled to go to trial in fall 2018.

If you have questions about class action lawsuits or if you feel unfairly treated in the workplace, please contact one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP to discuss potential violations.