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.

KBP Foods Fighting Suit Claiming Labor Law Violations

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Six employees of Overland Park-based KBP Foods LLC filed a lawsuit including allegations that the giant OP fast-food franchisee purposefully used faulty equipment for timekeeping. The suit claims that the company’s timekeeping system utilized a thumbprint scanner that consistently malfunctioned, which prevented their employees from clocking in when starting their shift or ending a break. Employees cite a failure to pay overtime wages, failure to pay minimum wage and failure to pay employees for all wages earned on the job.

The company owns 581 different restaurants throughout the country with KFC and Taco Bell being the most recognizable. In fact, the suit claims that KBP Foods is the largest KFC franchisee in the nation. KBP is accused of knowingly using equipment that failed to properly record time for employees’ shifts due to frequent malfunctions, including overtime hours. The lawsuit also alleges that corporate officers went so far as to put a policy in place that required employees to clock out but remain on site to complete standard (and required) closing operations.

Due to the company’s policy, many store managers consistently deleted hours worked from employee time cards/sheets in order to deprive them of wages and overtime pay for hours they completed on the job. The plaintiffs allege the company did so in a willful act intended to reduce labor costs for the company and earn incentives paid to management for maintaining overall labor costs below a designated threshold.

According to the lawsuit, when the thumbprint scanner fails to clock an employee in for their shift or at the end of a break, the manager on duty is supposed to manually enter the info into the restaurant’s back office computer, but this was rarely if ever done, resulting in employees who were underpaid and/or not paid for overtime hours worked. The timekeeping system in place also made it necessary for managers to run reports daily after the registers were closed. Plaintiffs allege that managers have the employees clock out prior to shutting down the registers in order to run the day’s reports; leaving the employees working off the clock for the closing procedures.

Plaintiffs in the suit seek class action status. They seek payment of unpaid wages, overtime wages, attorney fees and other compensation that the court deems appropriate.

If you have questions about California labor law or if you are not being paid overtime wages you have earned, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Cinemark Faces Certified Class of Employees Alleging Overtime and Wage Statement Violations

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A class of Cinemark movie theater employees claim that the company did not comply with state law requiring pay stubs to be accurate and itemized; detailing specifically the overtime pay rates. The group of 843 eligible California employees was recently certified for class action.

The estimated 843 employees located in California and employed by Cinemark who are eligible to join the class action lawsuit is based on calculations of legal counsel on the case who made their determinations based on the popular movie theater’s disclosures regarding the number of incorrect wage statements they issued to employees.

The federal judge on the case (Amey v. Cinemark USA Inc., 2018 BL 296573, N.D. Cal., No. 13-cv-05669) certified the class on August 16th, 2018. Certification of the class means that Cinemark USA Inc. will be required to provide the names and the contact information for any employees who received non-compliant pay stubs. Class members who do not opt out will receive a share of any payout or settlement that results from the case during pre-trail negotiations, mediation or a trial win. 

Employers are required to provide employees with detailed, itemized, and accurate pay stubs (a.k.a. wage statements) in order to assist employees in regulating their pay rate and overtime pay rate. Providing accurate wage statements creates transparency and allows employees to determine when they are not receiving the right pay for their work hours or the right rate of pay for their overtime hours specifically. California labor code requires more extensive pay stub disclosures than federal law. California law allows a $50 penalty per employee for the first pay stub violation and $100 for subsequent violations. As there are 26 pay periods in a year for employers who issue pay biweekly, pay stub violations can be very costly for employers.

If you have questions about California labor law pay stub requirements or if you are not receiving overtime compensation as required by law, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Car Dealerships in Overtime Suit

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A recent Supreme Court ruling found service advisers at car dealerships to be exempt under federal law from overtime pay requirements – much like car salesmen and mechanics. The ruling came down 5-4 that service advisers are sales people (even though they also fulfill additional duties such as greeting customers, and proposing various repair service, etc.) The ruling will affect more than 18,000 dealerships across the nation that together as a whole employ over 100,000 service advisers alone.

The case involved a Mercedes Benz dealership out of Encino, California and several of their current and former service advisers. Each side in the case interpreted the Fair Labor Standards Act differently…”any salesman…primarily engaged in selling or servicing automobiles” doesn’t have to provided overtime compensation.

The dealership’s arguments were based on their interpretation that the definition of salesman clearly included the service advisers. Their range of duties includes helping to diagnose mechanical issues, preparing price estimates for vehicle repairs, etc. Service advisers argued that they were not included in the definition of “salesman” as intended by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

In a majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the “ordinary meaning of ‘salesman’ is someone who sells goods or services.” According to this ordinary meaning of the word, service advisers are, in fact, salesmen. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented arguing that because the service advisers do not sell or repair vehicles, they should not be exempt from overtime.

The Department of Labor changed its interpretation of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 2011; which led the issue to the high court. For decades prior to the 2011 change, the department operated under the assumption that employers were not required to provide service advisers with overtime compensation.

This decision was the second time the court has ruled on this case. The earlier litigation resulted in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruling that service advisers were entitled to overtime. In 2016, after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the overtime question was sidestepped by an eight-member Supreme Court; advising the appeals court to take another look at the case. The appeals court again ruled in favor of service advisers.

The Supreme Court ruling in favor of car dealerships will have affect dealerships and service advisers nationwide.

If you have questions about overtime eligibility or overtime compensation as required by employment law, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Changes to a $2M Settlement Between Costco and Class of Drivers

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A California federal judge, U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo, granted preliminary approval after changes to the $2 million settlement between Costco and the proposed class of truck drivers while holding on to lingering concerns about the class counsel’s representation. The class of truck drivers originally alleged they were denied proper meal breaks and overtime pay.

The updated settlement agreement made adjustments to accommodate most of the issues that led to it being denied preliminary approval to the deal twice, but the judge still questioned whether or not the proposed class counsel was acting in the best interest of the drivers and whether or not the $2 million settlement amount/deal was a fair one.

One reason the judge first denied approval to the deal was that members of the class were required to release their FLSA claims. Proposed class counsel William Turley responded that is was okay that the drivers’ FLSA claims were dropped because they were basically worthless. In the updated settlement deal the drivers are split into a Rule 23 class and an FLSA collective that any drivers who wish to can opt in to. The Rule 23 settlement is estimated at $1,320,750. The FLSA settlement is estimated at $146,750. The settlement amounts clearly show that Turley’s argument that the FLSA claims were basically worthless was wrong. This situation led the judge to question Mr. Turley’s motivation for the false statement and the potential that he may have sought to keep the funds himself through an excessive attorney fee request. The judge also questioned Turley’s credibility in identifying the settlement amount as “fair.”

After the judge granted preliminary approval, she made it clear that doing so would not keep her from revisiting the questions she still had about the case during the hearing seeking final approval.

Unpaid overtime is one of the most common concerns in the American workforce. If you have concerns about unpaid overtime or if you are misclassified as exempt, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

$5M Deal to End California Truck Drivers’ Overtime Suit Against PepsiCo

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The proposed class of PepsiCo Inc. truck drivers requested preliminary approval from a California federal court for a $5 million settlement that, if approved, would resolve allegations leveled at PepsiCo by the drivers. Allegations against the soda giant include: failure to pay overtime, failure to provide meal and rest breaks, and failure to reimburse business expenses. All the allegations are in violation of both state and federal labor law.

Lead plaintiff, Nathaniel Helton, argued in the motion for preliminary settlement approval that the settlement is both fair and reasonable. If approved, the settlement would mean $1,988 to each of the approximately 1,800 class members who drove for one of the PepsiCo subsidiaries included in the suit.

If the settlement is approved by the court, it would mean an end to the proposed class action that was filed by Helton in state court against PepsiCo. And subsidiaries in early 2017. According to the lawsuit the drivers were required to monitor their vehicles, have their phones with them during meal break and other breaks, and in doing so, the company denied them legally mandated breaks. This also means that the company failed to pay overtime as required by labor law.

The plaintiffs in the case also claim that the company failed to cover business expenses for the truck drivers. For instance, paying for electricity required to charge phones drivers were required to keep on them, and final wages for drivers who were terminated or quit their position.

The Defendant, PepsiCo, denied the allegations. They also removed the lawsuit to federal court in spring of 2017. When the suit was moved to federal court, Helton, the plaintiff, amended the complaint to include additional claims under the FLSA and Private Attorneys General Act. Following two failed attempts at mediation, the parties involved reached a settlement in May. The deal would mean class counsel would receive $1.25 million (25% of the settlement), and no more than $65,000 in expenses. Helton would receive $7,500 as an incentive payment. The settlement also includes a $100,000 payment to resolve the PAGA claim (75% would go to the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency and 25% would go to the class’ fund).

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.