Overtime Claims Filed By Offshore Oil Rig Workers: Governed by FLSA or California State Law?

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The Supreme Court recently ruled unanimously that state wage and hour laws do not apply to offshore drilling workers when federal law addresses the issue in question. In the recent case, Parker Drilling Management Services v. Newton, No. 18-389, the question the Supreme Court was asked to answer was whether California law governs minimum wage and payment for “standby time” for workers on oil rigs working in federal waters off the California shoreline.

When they held that California’s wage and hour laws do not apply, the Supreme Court rejected the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision. The Supreme Court concluded that under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), California state law is not applicable as surrogate federal law unless federal law presents a significant void or gap concerning the specific issue. The Supreme Court decision is a decided victory for companies currently operating or servicing oil rigs off the California coast in federal waters.

The Allegations Made in the Wage and Hour Case:

Brian Newton, the plaintiff in the case, worked on oil drilling platforms off the coast of California as an employee of Parker Drilling Management Services, Ltd. Newton alleges that he regularly worked 14-day shifts involving 12 hours of “on duty” hours per day and 12 hours of “standby” per day. During the standby hours, Newton claims he could not leave the platform, yet he was not paid for the standby hours.

Newton filed a class action lawsuit in California state court alleging that the company’s standby policies violated California’s wage and hour laws as well as other claims of labor law violations in connection to Parker Drilling’s failure to provide workers with pay for standby hours. After the case was removed to federal district court, parties involved agreed that the oil drilling platforms where Newton performed his job duties were covered under OCSLA.  

If you are dealing with issues of wage theft and you aren’t sure how to seek justice for the wages you have lost, please get in touch with one of the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP can help. Get in touch with the employment law office nearest you: San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange or Chicago.

Gordo Taqueria Employee Lawsuit Results in $690,000 Settlement

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Gordo Taqueria has agreed to pay a $690,000 settlement to resolve a class action lawsuit brought by employees alleging the restaurants’ owners engaged in wage theft and other employment law violations. Gordo Taqueria owns five restaurants in San Francisco, Berkeley and Albany.

The settlement received preliminary approval from Alameda Superior Court judge Brad Seligman in December 2018. The settlement is scheduled to receive final approval on April 2nd, 2019. Within the settlement, the Defendant notes that they do not accept the facts as presented in the case by the plaintiffs and they admit no wrongdoing.

The lawsuit was brought by former dishwasher and prep cook Jose Martinez. Martinez worked at the College Avenue location in Berkeley from 2013 to 2015. The suit includes 240 Gordo employees, some current and some former. In the December 2016 complaint, Martinez alleged that Gordo did not pay him and other workers in similar positions as required by law. Workers regularly completed 10-12 hour days and were not provided with overtime wages. Tips were distributed only once or a few times per year and were given to employees based on hours they worked and their rate of pay, which is also in violation of labor law. Employees were allegedly not provided with required meal breaks or rest periods when completing long shifts (10+ hours/day).

Industry practice and state law both stipulate that cash tips are distributed at the end of each work day. California law specifically stipulates that tips are the sole property of the employee and that credit card tips should be distributed at the end of each pay period. Allegations were also included that the employees did not receive their full wages or back pay once their employment with the company ended and the company did not maintain accurate payroll records to calculate hours worked and wages owed.

During the discovery process, it came to light that Gordo did not use a time clock until 2015. Before that, the company relied on manual record keeping and the pre-2015 records were not kept on file by the company (another violation, this time of state record-keeping requirements).

Gordo owners dispute all the allegations made by the plaintiffs and state that they have done nothing unlawful.

If you are dealing with issues of wage theft and you aren’t sure how to seek justice for the wages you have lost, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Former Bodyguards Receive Settlement After Suing Depp for Employment Violations

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Two former bodyguards for Johnny Depp, Eugene Arreola and Miguel Sanchez, filed a California lawsuit in May 2018 alleging claiming Depp was in violation of employment law. Sanchez and Arreola claimed they were overworked and not paid overtime. The bodyguards also claimed they were subjected to unsafe working conditions. The lawsuit has now been settled.

Depp came to an agreement with the two former bodyguards who filed suit in 2018 and the case has been closed with all future hearings cancelled. Court documents indicate that the bodyguards reached a conditional settlement the resolves the matter. Settlement details were not released.

Arreola and Sanchez claimed in their lawsuit that Johnny Depp overworked and underpaid them during their time with him as bodyguards. They specifically cited a two-year period during which they described their time on the job as intolerable. They claimed they were expected to act as Depp’s babysitter. The duo claimed that between April 2016 and January 2018, they did not receive any overtime pay and they were deprived of food and rest breaks due to their work looking after the Depp family.

The original lawsuit was riddled with intense allegations. One claim described a situation in which the bodyguards were required to wipe drugs from Depp’s face at a nightclub in order to prevent others around the celebrity from seeing him using. The bodyguards describe their time with Depp during this time period as watching him spiral into a financial hurricane and act as babysitters for his children. One of the bodyguards claimed that one of his major job duties was to ensure that one of Depp’s children was looked after appropriately because they were living in an outhouse on Depp’s compound in Los Angeles.

Arreola and Sanchez asked for unspecified damages and compensation to make up for money they were owed due to overtime violations, etc. The two bodyguards described their job as requiring them to protect Depp from himself and his vices while he was in public – effectively making them caretakers.

Sanchez and Arreola (a 38-year-old LAPD veteran) worked happily for Depp for years while they were employed by a security company the celebrity hired, but then the problems started. Early in 2016, the bodyguards noticed Depp’s’ behavior start to change as well as the atmosphere in his Hollywood Hills compound. He started to make sudden and drastic changes to his staff and management team. The moves resulted in a substantial financial crunch for everyone except Depp.

In April of 2016, in the midst of his rocky marriage with Amber Heard, Depp fired the security company that employed both Sanchez and Arreola, Premier Group International. The bodyguards claim that Depp and his entourage made the change to “cut out the middle man” and hire the bodyguards directly so they could avoid the agency fee.

Once the guards were employed by Depp directly, their pay checks and hours were not properly tracked. They were expected to work 12-hour days and back to back shifts. And their job duties expanded to include safeguarding Depp and others who were around him as they engaged in “illegal activity.” They were often in situations that required more of them that what a bodyguard would reasonably be held responsible for. They were frequently being asked to perform the tasks of drivers for Depp and his family. They were repeatedly asked to drive vehicles that contained illegal substances as well as open containers and minors. They were asked to monitor unstable people in Depp’s life. Sanchez was specifically tasked with looking after one of Depp’s children (either 19-year old Lily rose or 16-year old John Depp III, the lawsuit did not specify which child). In fact, more often than not, Sanchez who was hired to protect Depp’s children, was more often than not the primary caregiver for Depp’s minor child who loved on the Depp compound, but in a separate home. Sanchez was advised to give in to every whim of Depp’s children. He worried that if he didn’t, he would be terminated from his position.

If you are being forced to work in a toxic or dangerous work environment or if you are not being paid overtime as required by federal law, please get in touch with one of the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Southern California Car Wash Company Allegedly Cheated 800 Workers Out of Overtime Pa

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A southern California car wash mogul, Vahid David Delrahim, will pay back $4.2 million in back wages and penalties after allegedly cheating 800 workers out of overtime pay and destroying evidence. The decision followed a two-year court battle with federal authorities.

The Los Angeles native failed to provide workers at a dozen different California locations with minimum wage or overtime payment. The car washes were located in Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties. The consent decree was approved by the U.S. District Court Judge Fernando Olguin ordering Delrahim to pay:

·      $1.9 million in back wages

·      $1.9 million in damages to workers

·      $400,000 in civil penalties

The case is being called a landmark case as it sends a powerful message to employers that the Department of Labor will use powerful law enforcement and litigation tools to protect employees and level the playing field for law-abiding employers. According to the judgment, Delrahim ordered his employees (many of whom are Spanish speakers unfamiliar with U.S. and/or California labor law) to work off the clock at the start of each shift. He also ordered them to clock out when business was slow but remain at the car wash for when business picked back up. This resulted in many hours on site without payment.

The back wages ordered by the court cover a period from 2013 to the present. It’s possible that more workers will be added to the case resulting in more money as the identity of all workers at all 12 car washes is not currently known. Delrahim was told to provide more names, addresses and workplace records within 30 days. The info was originally requested by the prosecutors in the case in 2016. The judgment will result in the employees receiving over $10,000 in back wages.

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

Home Depot Faces Former Employee's Allegations of Overtime Violations

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Marco A. Batani, out of San Diego, recently filed suit against Home Depot, alleging unlawful business practices and failure to pay overtime. The complaint was filed January 2018 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. In Batani’s complaint, it states that he was employed at Home Depot between 2016 and 2017 as a sales consultant, but that he was misclassified as an outside salesperson. Yet his duties while on the job consisted of mainly non-exempt tasks.

In promotional materials describing potential careers with The Home Depot, the one-stop shop for customers building a home, the company describes a warm workplace culture. The company website states that they couldn’t have “done it without the culture and feeling of home and family among the associates in our stores, distribution centers and corporate office.” Yet the claims made by Batani in the recent California overtime lawsuit paint a far different picture of the situation.

In Batani’s suit, he claims that during his employment he consistently worked over eight hours per day and more than 40 hours per week – without being provided with the legally required overtime compensation. (According the FLSA, employers are required to provide overtime pay for any hours worked beyond “full time.” The law also defines full time as 8 hours per day and/or 40 hours/week.) 

Batani also alleges that he was not provided with the legally required meal periods and was not reimbursed for all job expenses.

In addition to the above allegations, Batani claims that Home Depot USA failed to provide employees with wages due at separation, failed to provide timely and accurate wage statements, and failed to reimburse business expenses. All of the allegations are in vio0lation of state law.

Batani seeks a trial by jury. He filed suit to seek damages of $100, an aggregate penalty up to $4,000, compensatory and liquidated damages, nominal damages, restitution and disgorgement, punitive and exemplary damages and attorneys’ fees. He also seeks any additional relief the court may deem just in the situation.

If you have questions about overtime pay or if your employer is refusing to provide you with required meal and rest breaks, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.