Employee Back Pay Lawsuit Settled by Los Robles Regional Medical Center

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Thousand Oaks, California’s Los Robles Regional Medical Center agreed to pay $2.95 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that they shortchanged their employees’ hourly pay. The settlement agreement addresses litigation due to a 2014 filing by plaintiff, Jeanette Munden, a former nurse at the medical center. Munden alleged her hourly pay was routinely rounded in a way that short-changed her paycheck.

Judge Kevin DeNoce of Ventura County Superior Court approved the settlement against Los Robles, ruling that the center would pay $2.95 million over a lawsuit alleging that it shortchanged hourly pay of employees and prevented them from taking lunch breaks (as well as other labor code violations). The settlement includes 3,000 current and former employees who split close to $1.9 million. The average payout for workers included in the suit will total around $618. The hospital will also be covering attorney fees ($973,500) and state labor code penalties for alleged violations ($10,000).

The company settled on a no-fault basis and does not admit any wrongdoing, although this is not the first time they have faced this type of employment law violation allegation.

Timeline of the Case:

2005: A federal judge approved a $4.75 million settlement for a lawsuit against Low Robles Medical Center claiming over 1,000 employees were owed wages for missed breaks and overtime.

2014: Jeanette Munden, former Los Robles nurse, alleged her hourly pay was regularly rounded to short her paycheck. She claimed Los Robles owed her overtime and that she was also consistently denied lunch breaks and rest periods during her employment at the facility.

2015: Munden resigned from her position at Los Robles to take another job but was not paid compensation she was owed by the company.

2017: Nurses negotiating contracts with the facility in September 2017 claimed that staffing was so limited that they could not take breaks or even, sometimes, go to the bathroom.

As the lead plaintiff in the case, Munden will receive a $15,000 award. Only one of the current and former employees included in the suit objected to the settlement.

If you have questions about how to file an overtime lawsuit or if you need to discuss when employers are required to provide overtime pay, 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.

New Obstacles for California Employers after “Black Swan” Internship Case

July 20, 2015 - California internships in the past have been viewed as a trade-off between well know, desirable employers and young students interested in the industry. The employers get workers and the interested students get experience in their chosen field. Many college students and recent graduates vie for a limited number of highly coveted internship positions in Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Companies offer unpaid positions (internships) and students and new grads vie for the chance to start building a relevant network. The simultaneously beneficial nature of the internship means there has been a limited amount of litigation related to the arrangements. But as of 2013, there’s a ruling that is affecting the symbiotic relationship between employers and interns.

In 2013, a federal District Court in New York found that interns of the movie Black Swan were entitled to pursue a class action. The class action seeks millions of dollars for unpaid wages, overtime, etc. Studios and tech business employers are taking note.

With Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit attempted to answer the basic question, what is an intern? There are interns across the county, but there is a surprisingly limited amount of actual law related to this particular workplace relationship. The Second Circuit’s decision actually turned on a case from almost 70 years ago regarding railroad apprentices. California employers are discovering that the direction this particular discussion is taking holds both good news and bad news for the future of their workplaces.

The Good News: According to the Second Circuit’s decision, wage-hour cases in relation to interns are rarely subject to resolution in a class action or collection action due to the highly individualized nature of the setup.

The Bad News: Fox, the studio that produced the movie, convinced the court to impose a test to determine who the primary beneficiary of the intern/employer relationship is. This test was to be used to determine whether the worker was an intern or an employee. The court put together 7 non-exhaustive questions for a trial court to consider when attempting determining if a worker is an intern or an employee.

  1. Is there a clear understanding that there is no expectation of compensation for work performed?
  2. Does the internship offer any hands on training or clinical experience as would be provided by a school?
  3. Is the internship a part of the coursework of the “intern”/will they receive academic credit?
  4. Does the internship coincide with the academic calendar?
  5. Is the internship limited to the time period during which the setup would provide beneficial learning opportunities?
  6. Does the intern’s work compliment or replace the work of paid employees?
  7. Is there a clear understanding that the intern is not entitled to a paid job once the internship is completed?

The primary beneficiary test is bad news for employers who offer internships with limited educational benefits for interns or for those whose interns are performing work that would be completed by employees in their absence. The opinion of the court indicated that the more menial the work assigned to an intern, the less likely that they would legally be considered an intern. Employers, particularly those in tech and entertainment industries, are finding that they need to rework their model in order to suit this new finding. It’s the first significant appellate opinion on this issue, but it will not be the last. There are other intern related cases on appeal and awaiting decision by other courts throughout the nation. In California, the opinion will probably have a fairly lasting impact. California employers are already hustling to bring their internship programs up to snuff. Interns considered employees might very well begin seeking to recover unpaid wages, overtime, etc. in accordance with the penalties of violating the California Labor Code.

If you are unsure what constitutes a valid internship or if you need additional information regarding being misclassified as an intern instead of an employee, contact the southern California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.