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.

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.

Warehouse Wage Theft Case Results in $21 Million Settlement

Walmart and their most prominent import distribution subcontractor, Schneider Logistics, Inc. will pay an historic $21 million settlement for wage and hour violations (federal and state level) in connection to case Carrillo vs. Schneider Logistics et al. Violations were committed at a warehouse facility in Riverside County, California. According to the terms of the settlement, Schneider is to pay the full settlement awarded for unpaid wages as well as interest and penalties for multiple wage and hour violations that occurred over the process of a decade. The facility was dedicated to Walmart operations, but the settlement agreement doesn’t indicate whether or not Walmart will be contributing to the settlement payment as a part of a behind the scenes agreement. Walmart did receive a complete release alongside Schneider in the settlement.

The settlement will go to over 1800 workers employed between 2001 and 2013 at three different distribution centers in Mira Loma, California. All three facilities were dedicated 100% to Walmart distribution. Together, the three facilities function as the largest Walmart distribution center in the western United States.

Allegations made in the suit included major wage theft over the course of 10 years against “lumpers.” Lumpers are workers who are paid to load and unload boxes by hand from shipment containers arriving on site onto trailers waiting to be loaded for Walmart delivery. Workers often worked double shifts (meaning 16 hours/day), seven days per week. There were no mandated, required breaks and no overtime premiums. The work they completed was often done for wages lower than the federally mandated minimum wage. Payment rates were based on an elaborate piece rate system that was changed quickly after the suit was filed in November 2011. (It was found to be illegal).

For additional information on wage and hour violations and how to identify them in the workplace, contact Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik, the wage and hour theft experts.