$4.2M to End California Food Service Co. Pay Suit

A group of service technicians responsible for handling equipment for an ITW Food Equipment Group division out of California requested that the California federal court offer initial approval of a $4.2 million settlement to resolve allegations that the company did not provide equal pay to their technicians.

The group of technicians make up a class of more than 200. The lead plaintiff is Joseluis Alcantar. Alcantar worked for food equipment service provider, Hobart Service, or over two decades. Allegedly, Hobart Foods did not provide technicians with pay for the transportation of tools to and from home when servicing their first and last customers of each work day. Following seven years of litigation, plaintiffs are currently requesting that the judge approve the preliminary agreement that was reached just before the trial commenced.

Class members in receipt of settlement money would receive a portion based on calculations considering their amount of time as an employee and other relevant factors. The motion filed declares the settlement as fair, reasonable and adequate. The motion cited the reason behind plaintiff support of the settlement as the requirement for defendants to conduct remediation measures clarifying the vehicle usage agreement that should address the commuting options available to service technicians in regard to their work vehicles.

Service technicians in the group are responsible for maintenance of the company’s food service equipment at a number of different customer locations. In order to complete their job duties, techs are required to transport tools and other necessary equipment to the sites. The company calculating time worked with a deduction for “normal commute time” at the start and finish of the work day. Plaintiffs allege this is in violation of California’s labor laws.

The original complaint was filed in 2011. While the court initially sided with the company and refused to grant class certification in 2012, the plaintiffs eventually appealed to the Ninth Circuit and the previous ruling was overturned. In 2016, class certification was granted allowing the overtime claim to move forward. A trial date was set for early 2018.

After a large amount of discovery with 30 depositions and the production of 142,000 documents, and several failed attempts to resolve the suit, an agreement was reached nine days prior to the trial.

If you have concerns regarding California wage and hour law or other California employment law concerns, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.