Temecula Nail Salon Faces $1.2M Fine for California Wage Violations

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Employees of a Temecula, California nail salon called Young’s Nail Spa were listed as “independent contractors” so the salon owners could avoid payment of overtime or required meal and rest breaks during longer shifts. The salon faces a file of over $1.2 million for misclassification of workers, violation of wage and hour law, failure to pay overtime and provide required meal and rest breaks.

The salon is located on Margarita Road in Temecula and was under investigation by the California Department of Industrial Relations due to complaints about wage theft and other unlawful practices. In the course of the investigation, numerous irregularities were discovered. One of the most problematic was the shifts that Young’s Nail Spa employees were required to complete. Workers were spending 9 ½ to 10-hour days on the job. They were not provided meal or rest breaks. The Labor Commissioner said this was an attempt to get around overtime obligations through misclassification of employees as independent contractors.

In addition to denying workers their rightful pay, misclassification also gives employers an unfair advantage over competing, law-abiding businesses. According to California law, employers who provide their workers with less than minimum wage will be held responsible for paying the wages owed plus an equivalent amount in liquidated damages and interest when they are caught.

During the course of the investigation, auditors from the state went through 40 months of business records before determining that the salon engaged in misclassification and additional forms of wage theft. Citations totaled $670,040 for worker reimbursement and $572,187 in civil penalties.

If you have questions about wage and hour law or if you feel that you have been misclassified on the job, please get in touch with one of the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

California Contractor Fined $1.9M in Response to Wage Theft Claims

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Fullerton Pacific Interiors Inc., a California drywall contractor, was filed $1.9 million by California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement for failing to allow rest periods for workers (and other wage violations). The violations allegedly occurred on 26 different construction projects in different locations throughout Southern California.

The fine was handed down from California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, a.k.a. the Labor Commissioner’s Office – a part of the California Department of Industrial Relations. The fine was processed because the California drywall company failed to properly compensate almost 500 workers for rest periods as required by state and federal labor law. During the course of investigation, the division also found that almost 300 workers were not paid for overtime hours and almost 30 workers were paid less than minimum wage.

From the summer of 2014 through the summer of 2016, Fullerton Pacific Interiors Inc. was under contract to perform drywall work at a number of recreation centers: hotels, casinos, etc. All were located in three California counties: Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino. The Labor Commissioner noted that many contractors who embrace unscrupulous methods may try to obscure wage theft by providing workers with pay on a flat rate basis rather than an hourly rate. Yet a daily or any other flat rate system of pay does not override minimum wage and overtime requirements as defined by law.

According to the findings of the investigation, Fullerton workers were completing taping and drywall installation at the work sites. They were paid a daily rate that did not consider their overtime hours on the job. They were offered a 30-minute meal period, but no rest breaks throughout the day.

The fine accounts for:

·      $1,892,279 payable to workers (with $798,664 for rest period violations, $386,685 for unpaid overtime, and $692,500 for wage statement violations)

·      $72,400 civil penalty

·      Workers that were not paid minimum age were owed a total of $14,431 unpaid wages, liquidated damages, and waiting time penalties

If you have questions about unpaid overtime or if you are not receiving meal and rest breaks on the job in accordance with state and federal labor law, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Another Driver Wage and Hour Lawsuit Coming at GrubHub

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GrubHub is generating headlines again as they face another proposed collective and class action alleging they misclassified delivery drivers as independent contractors in order to get around the legal requirements to pay minimum wage and overtime pay. A pair of workers have filed suit against the company in Illinois federal court. The company, which takes orders for food from customers through a mobile app or online and then has delivery drivers obtain and deliver the items, has dealt with similar accusations in the past.

The two plaintiffs who filed suit, Carmen Wallace and Broderick Bryant, made allegations that the GrubHub Inc. and GrubHub Holdings Inc. violated the Fair Labor Standards Act as well as both Illinois and California labor law when they classify drivers as independent contractors. The plaintiffs claim that the GrubHub delivery service exerts a substantial amount of control over the work performed by their drivers and relies on the completion of their job duties to run the overall business.

According to the complaint, the GrubHub delivery drivers are currently classified as independent contractors but should actually be classified as employees according to standards set down by law as the company directs the drivers’ work in detail, they instruct drivers on where to report for their work shifts, they tell drivers how to dress and where to go to pick up or wait for orders scheduled for delivery.

Virtually identical claims are being made in another Illinois federal court case called Souran v. GrubHub Holdings Inc.

Numerous drivers for the company tried to opt in to the Souran case after the deadline, but GrubHub would not agree to add them so they filed a new case for late-submitted opt-ins. The Souran group was granted conditional certification as a collective action in February 2017, but was stayed by the Seventh Circuit until the U.S. Supreme Court produced a ruling on another case, Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis et al. The high court ruling came down in May ruling employment agreements barring workers from bringing class actions permissible. As GrubHub drivers sign this type of agreement when they start work with the company, the Seventh Circuit sent Souran back to district court for additional proceedings in accordance with the ruling of the high court.

Raef Lawson also has a similar suit pending against GrubHub before the Ninth Circuit. Lawson is urging the appeals court to revive his action. It was dismissed in February after the lower court found he was an independent contractor in spite of his claims that he should be classified as an employee.

The action filed by Wallace and Bryant raises most of the same claims. The plaintiffs note a number of different work conditions that are indicative of employee status: drivers work scheduled shifts, drivers must remain available to accept assignments during shifts, drivers are subject to termination if they don’t listen to the company’s dispatchers who are advising them where to go and when to be there, etc.

If you have concerns regarding misclassification in the workplace or if you aren’t being paid overtime you are due, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Coding School Agrees to $1M Settlement After Alleged Labor Law Violations

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A coding school, General Assembly Space, Inc., recently agreed to pay over a thousand of their current and past instructors $1 million in order to settle allegations that the school misclassified them as independent contractors rather than employees. As a result of the misclassification, the instructors were not paid minimum wage and overtime wages according to their complaint filed in California federal court.

The motion for preliminary settlement approval the plaintiffs’ counsel stated that they planned to request 1/3 of the settlement amount – approximately $333,333 for attorneys’ fees and another $15,000 for expenses in addition to regular fees. Plaintiffs’ counsel felt this amount was fair as it would allow each class member to receive around $28.35 for every qualifying week they completed on the job.

If the settlement deal is approved it would provide resolution for the 10-count complaint that was filed by John Marin, lead plaintiff in the case. The suit was filed in July 2017 against General Assembly Space, Inc., a New York based online school.

The lead plaintiff in the case, Marin, began working for the school as a lead instructor, full-time in June 2016. He taught three consecutive 3-month immersive data science courses in Lost Angeles, California.

According to Marin, he consistently worked 70-80 hour work weeks and was not given the meal and rest breaks required by law. He also claims he was not paid overtime for his hours over the standard 40 hour work week or given accurate/itemized wage statements. After he completed the instruction of the third consecutive course, he was terminated abruptly. The company then replaced Marin with an employee who was classified as exempt from overtime. Marin was denied unemployment benefits by the company, but California’s Employment Development Department later reversed this denial.

The original complaint asserted claims under the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) in addition to claims under California state labor law and the state’s Unfair Competition Law. He also made claims under the Private Attorneys General Act (allowing workers to sue in order to recover civil penalties on their own behalf and on behalf of other employees in their situation), and the state of California for labor code violations.

Marin later amended his complaint to add another former instructor, Keyan Bagheri, as a lead plaintiff. The district court cut the claims brought under FLSA and soon after, the two parties entered mediation. The parties notified the court that they had reached a settlement agreement in May.

If you have questions about overtime pay or if you are not receiving your meal or rest breaks in accordance with California state labor law and/or the Fair Labor Standards Act, please get in touch with the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

California Judge Certifies Class of Kaiser Traveling Nurses

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U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero certified a class of Kaiser Foundation traveling nurses after the caregivers alleged they were shorted on overtime pay, denied required meal breaks and rest periods, etc. The judge granted class certification after the nurses raised valid issues about broad policies that were applicable to all class members.

The judge granted a bid to certify a class of R.N.’s and licensed practical nurses who were all employed by AMN Healthcare Inc. The health care staffing contractor staffed Kaiser Foundation hospitals with nurses in California. The suit included numerous allegations of wage and hour violations of California Labor Law.

The judge concluded that the plaintiffs met the requirements for both commonality and predominance prior to granting class certification. Judge Spero said the nurses’ theories that the defendants in the case discouraged overtime and didn’t adequately prevent underreporting raised a number of common issues that were susceptible to common proof.

In reaching this conclusion, Judge Spero rejected a number of arguments presented by Kaiser, the defendant in the case, who was arguing against class certification: evidence of minor variations in how the company policies were implemented in various facilities and that potentially removed the commonality of issues regarding the nurses’ overtime payment.

When there is evidence of a common business policy that is applicable to all members of a class with concerns to the payment of overtime, and all the class members can be said to share the same core duties that tend to routinely lead to unscheduled overtime, the judge argued that some class members who did not find themselves working unscheduled overtime or who were provided adequate compensation for the overtime hours was not sufficient to defeat predominance. Based on this logic, the court found that the common issues predominate over individualized inquiries in consideration of the overtime claims being presented by the plaintiffs.

The Kaiser nurses’ suit was removed to federal court in early 2016. The original lawsuit alleged that the Defendant suppressed overtime by advising their traveling nurses that it wasn’t permitted and that they further discouraged overtime by keeping an over-difficult overtime approval process in place. The plaintiffs also alleged that they were not provided with the required meal breaks and rest periods. This was accomplished through a number of different policies the company implemented.

In addition to AMN Healthcare, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Southern California Permanente Medical Group Inc. and the Permanente Medical Group Inc. were also named as defendants. All are Kaiser entities.

If you have questions regarding proper meal breaks and rest periods or if you need to find out what the legal requirements are for overtime pay, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Does Johnson & Johnson Pay Proper Wages to their Employees?

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In recent news out of Los Angeles, an Orange County woman sued Johnson & Johnson (U.S. District Court for the Central District of California case number 8:17-cv-01608). The California woman, Nhung B. Tran, filed a wage and hour lawsuit on September 15th, 2017 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California listing Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc. as the Defendant in the case. Tran claims that Johnson & Johnson failed to pay fair wages, which means they are in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

In her complaint, Tran made allegations that she worked for 12 years in the Johnson & Johnson Quality Assurance department where she handled records management. According to Tran she worked more than 40 hours per week, but was not paid overtime wages. Tran alleges that the defendants failed to provide her with any overtime compensation for the hours she worked for the company that exceeded the 40 hours per week that is in violation of FLSA.

Definitions to Know:

Overtime: According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), overtime means time worked beyond a prescribed threshold. The threshold prescribed by the FLSA defines the normal work period as a workweek of 7 consecutive days. The normal FLSA regulated overtime threshold is 40 hours per workweek. Some jobs may be governed by a different FLSA overtime threshold.

Allegation: In the legal world, an allegation is a formal claim against another individual, group or institution.

Overtime Compensation: Unless an employee is exempt, the FLSA requires that they be provided with overtime pay for hours worked above and beyond those as identified as “normal.” Overtime pay is required to be at a rate not less than time and one-half of the employee’s regular rate of pay. According to FLSA, there is no limit to the number of hours an employee aged 16+ can work in any workweek as long as they are being paid in accordance to overtime requirements.

Tran wishes to obtain a trial by jury as well as economic damages, general damages, punitive damages, statutory damages, legal fees, double damages, and any other relief that the court deems appropriate in the situation once they consider the facts.

If you have questions about the Fair Labor Standards Act or overtime compensation, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.