Comcast and O.C. Communications Reach Settlement in California Wage and Hour Suit

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The $7.5 million settlement presented by Comcast and O.C. Communications for California wage and hour violations was rejected initially. But it was approved in early July 2019 after two years of litigation. The California wage and hour lawsuit involved approximately 4,500 techs. Allegations included in the federal class action stated that O.C. Communications, skilled technician supplier, and Comcast both violated state and federal laws. The companies were accused of numerous wage and hour violations including not paying workers for all the hours they worked, failing to compensate their technicians for piecework and overtime, and failing to provide workers with the required minimum wage.

A group of technicians classified as non-exempt whose job duties included installing cable, tv, phone, security, and internet services to Comcast customers sued the companies as joint employers (Soto, et al. v. O.C. Communications, Inc., et al., No. 17-cv-00251). The plaintiffs claimed the companies failed to pay minimum wages and overtime wages, did not provide appropriate compensation for rest and meal breaks, did not reimburse their employees for business-related expenses, and did not provide required wage statements. All of the above allegations are violations of California’s labor code.

The original rejection of the settlement  April 2019 was due to U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria’s concerns that the agreement did not address avoiding repeat scenarios. He saw the issues as being systemic. He also felt the settlement was achieved at a discount and wanted assurances that the employment law violations would be unlikely to recur.

According to case documents, Comcast techs sometimes worked 60 hours in a week and were paid on a hybrid hourly/piece-rate basis based on different tasks and jobs. One plaintiff alleged Comcast assigned him 32 jobs to complete instead of the more typical eight jobs in one shift. Comcast workers regularly ate on the job (skipping meal breaks), were required to be on call at all hours, and had to provide their own tools. One plaintiff was allegedly told to under-report his work hours.

If you have experienced injustice in the workplace or if you have been the victim of California labor law violations in the workplace, please get in touch with 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.

Former MedMen CFO Files Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

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In the last month, three senior executives have left Culver City-based MedMen Enterprises Inc. Since January, the retail cannabis company has experienced the departure of close to 100 employees. Most recently, as announced in an April 19th, 2019 press release, MedMen General Counsel LD Sergi Trager and Chief Operating Officer Ben Cook resigned. MedMen Senior Vice President in charge of corporate communications, Daniel Yi, also left the company.

The departures of execs and employees followed a wrongful termination suit filed against the company in January by the former MedMen Chief Financial Officer James Parker. Parker claimed that he was stripped of his powers and left unable to fulfill his job duties in the workplace. Parker's wrongful termination lawsuit is currently pending in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

What is Wrongful Termination? Sometimes referred to wrongful dismissal or wrongful discharge, wrongful termination occurs when an employer terminates an employee's contract of employment in a way that breaches one or more terms of the contract of employment or a statute or provision or rule in employment law.

Bierman responded in February through a company blog post insisting that the claims made by Parker were malicious and an attention-getter and concluding that the lawsuit was without merit. He emphasizes the accusations made in the wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Parker went directly against the company's core values and that the workforce is one of the most diverse in any industry. MedMen has operations in numerous states, including California, Nevada, New York, Arizona, and Illinois. Third-quarter revenues projections were at $36.6 million for the period that ended March 30th. Final results are expected to be published by the company May 29th.

If you have questions about wrongful termination or if you have been a victim of wrongful termination, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP as soon as possible.

Allegations of Failure to Pay Accurate Overtime Lead to Class Action Lawsuit Against VNA Hospice

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A recent class action lawsuit filed against VNA Hospice and Palliative Care of Southern California alleges that the company violated numerous California Labor Laws by failing to provide employees with proper overtime pay for hours worked.

According to their website, VNA Hospice & Palliative Care of Southern California offers hospice and palliative care in the home of patients, skilled nursing centers, assisted living facilities, or independent living facilities. Every patient is different. That's why caregivers employed by VNA SoCal help to create custom medical care plans for patients, setting personal goals, and providing palliative care to help manage both pain and symptoms. VNA SoCal caregivers offer a wide range of services from hospice-care to home health care to private duty care to senior care and more.

VNA Hospice and Palliative Care of Southern California Allegedly:

•    Failed to compensate hourly employees with the proper amount of overtime pay.

•    Failed to provide California employees with meal breaks as required by state law.

•    Failed to provide California employees with rest periods as mandated by California Labor Code.

The class action overtime lawsuit was filed on March 29, 2019. The lawsuit is currently pending in San Bernardino County Superior Court for the State of California (Case No. CIVDS1909598). In the complaint, plaintiffs claim that the company paid their non-exempt employees' non-discretionary incentive wages that were created based on employee performance. Plaintiffs further allege that according to the law, the various incentive wages provided to VNA Hospice's employees should have been included in the hourly rates of pay that were used in calculating overtime rates for the employees. Allegedly illegal overtime calculations on the part of the company left other non-exempt employees at VNA Hospice receiving inaccurate overtime wages for overtime hours worked.

The complaint filed against VNA Hospice also seeks penalties related to missed meal breaks. VNA Hospice allegedly did not have a company policy in place that enabled employees to take full, off-duty, thirty-minute, uninterrupted meal breaks before the end of the 5th hour of a shift as required by law.

If you are not paid overtime wages as required by California Labor Law or if you have questions about what to do when you experience labor law violations in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Prestigious Horse Training Facilities’ Owner Ordered to Pay $1.3M in Back Wages

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Thirty migrant workers were awarded close to $1.3 million in back wages after allegations were made against two prestigious horse training facilities in the Bay Area and their owner. Kevin Chambers, owner of the Portola Valley Training Center in Menlo Park and Gilroy Gaits in Hollister under EWC & Associates Inc., faced claims of violating work visa program regulations and California labor law through his failure provide workers with federally mandated minimum wage and overtime wages. In addition, he allegedly housed his workers in substandard living conditions for years.

In this case, the 30 migrant workers who were provided with substandard living conditions were housed in converted horse stables that did not even have running water. The workers were H-2B guest workers that were brought into the country under temporary visas in order to fill non-agricultural jobs. According to court documents, employers are owed back wages for various lengths of time during 2015-2018.

The lawsuit was filed against Chambers in the Northern California District of the U.S. District Court in January and alleged that he did not pay his workers when their wages were due, did not pay them required industry standard wages, and other violation allegations. According to court documents, the case was settled shortly after the suit was filed.

Other issues of interest in the case include Chambers’ failure to keep records of overtime worked, deductions made from workers’ pay, and that he required workers to pay back visa processing fees and the costs of transportation to and from their home countries. On the Portola Valley Training Center in Menlo Park website, the facility is described as a 60-acre facility that is a “home to world class trainers and horses.” The facility includes multiple arenas (both jumping and flat), a 5/8 racetrack, an on-site veterinary clinic and 40 acres of land for off-training day rides.

According to the settlement agreement, Chambers will provide $1.27 million in back wages to the 30 migrant workers, as well as $100,000 in civil penalties. Chambers is also barred from applying for any labor certifications (including the previously accessed H-2B guest worker program) for a period of one year.

If you have questions about how to file a California overtime suit or if you are not being provided with minimum or overtime wages as required by law, please get in touch with one of the experienced employment law attorneys at California’s Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

California Judge Rejects $7.5M Comcast Settlement Due to Systemic Wage and Hour Violations

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A California judge recently rejected the $7.5M settlement proposed in the Comcast case alleging wage and hour violations under both state and federal law. The rejection was apparently based on the judge’s view that the FLSA violations were systemic and the settlement did not relieve his suspicions that defendant’s practices would continue in the future.

A group of technicians filed the lawsuit against O.C. Communications Inc. (OCC), Comcast Corporation and Comcast Cable Communications Management, LLC. The techs handled installation of cable, television, phone, security and internet services and claimed that the OCC and Comcast employed them as “joint” employers. The plaintiffs in the suit were classified by their employer/s as non-exempt employees. They performed installations on behalf of the Defendant throughout the country, working 5-6 days per week and up to 10 hours per day. According to the plaintiffs, they were paid on a hybrid pay system combining hourly rates with piece rates and based on the different jobs and tasks they performed on the job for customers of Comcast.

Plaintiffs in the case insist they were frequently pressured to under-report the number of hours they worked and to report meal breaks that they never took. Plaintiffs also allege that their time cards were manipulated to reduce their hours, reimbursements requests for necessary expenses were refused, they were actively prevented from taking lawfully required meal and rest breaks, and wage statements issued by the company purposefully concealed the rate of pay for work.

Both parties involved in the case agreed on the $7.5 million settlement and requested approval, but the California judge denied the parties’ request noting the substantial merit of alleged wage and hour violations in the case, and the apparent “systemic” nature of the Defendant’s actions. The judge described the proposed settlement as having been achieved at a discount that was difficult or the court to swallow without assurances that the alleged FLSA violations were unlikely to recur in the future.

If you have questions about wage and hour law or if you have experienced FLSA violations in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Shell Refinery has $7.7M Wage Deal on the Table for Pipeline Workers

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Shell Oil owns a number of pipeline terminals and refineries. A putative class of workers pulled from both are likely to see the $7.7 million wage and hour settlement for their case approved. The California federal judge, U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney, has already granted preliminary approval “preliminarily.”

The judge praised the settlement and advised counsel they had done a good job. She did request changes and clarifications including an amended settlement schedule to provide her with time to consider a revised version. She advised parties she would most likely allow the deal to move forward within the week.

David Berlanga, plaintiff, filed suit in January 2017 alleging wage and hour claims and listing four California energy facilities as Defendants in the case:

·      Shell Pipeline Co. LP’s terminal facility in Carson

·      Shell subsidiary Equilon Enterprises LLC’s oil refinery in Martinez

·      CRI Catalyst Co LP’s production facilities in Martinez

·      CRI Catalyst Co LP’s production facilities in Pittsburg

Allegedly, the companies did not provide rest breaks free of job duties or accurate wage statements to employees. Berlanga filed claims under the California Private Attorneys General Act as well as the state’s Unfair Competition Law. He was seeking back wages, statutory penalties, attorneys’ fees and an updated workplace policy in compliance with the law.

The class would include plant operators (since January 2013) who have been required to keep their radios on or respond to calls during their rest breaks that are mandated by state labor law. According to the law, employers must relinquish control over how employees spend time during breaks and employees must be relieved of all their job duties – including the obligation to remain on call.

The settlement is the result of a private mediation in April and will include up to $1.9 in attorney’s fees (or a quarter of the common fund). And incentive award of $7,500 for each of the six class representatives is also sought although the judge indicated this may be too high.

If you have questions about California mandated rest breaks or if you are not receiving accurate wage statements as required by law, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

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.