California Exxon Subcontractor On-Call Claim Settled for $2.3M

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In recent news, an electrical subcontractor for ExxonMobil Corp. and Freeport McMoRan Oil & Gas agreed to a settlement to resolve employment law violation claims related to on call workers without pay. The $2.3 million settlement will resolve allegations that workers were due back pay after they were on duty at all hours and were not allowed to leave the offshore oil and gas platforms.

102 workers were involved in the claims based on both the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and California law. The proposed class action lawsuit listed Ardent Companies, Inc. as the Defendant. Allegations were made that the Defendant in the case required their employees to remain on-call at all times: during meal breaks, during rest periods, when they were not scheduled for a shift. The lead plaintiff in the case claimed that while employees were provided meals and lodging as a condition of their employment, the value of those benefits wasn’t included in their “regular rate” of pay when calculating any overtime pay due to workers.

The Defendant, Ardent, argued that the workers were appropriately compensated for their time and that California state wage and hour law requirements were not applicable to the situation because the platforms where the employees fulfilled their job duties were located in federal waters and that employees were able to leave the platform upon request.

The plaintiffs’ case was supported by a pending case scheduled to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in April. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s dismissal of the case, Newton v. Parker Drilling Mgmt. Servs, Ltd. They held that state minimum wage and overtime law were applicable to the case rather than FLSA in reference to the oil platform workers involved in the case working on the Outer Continental Shelf. A decision on this case is expected in June.

This is good news for California workers as California employment laws tend to offer more protection to employees than their federal counterparts – and on-call work is no exception to this trend. Under FLSA, employees are generally considered on call if they are required to remain on the job site/the employer’s premises. Employees who are to remain on call at home or who are required to leave a message where they can be reached, are not (in most cases) considered on call according to federal law. Exceptions may occur in situations where there are additional constraints on the employee’s freedom.

California state employment law, on the other hand, entitles employees to pay under a wider scope of circumstances. For instance, California state court recently expanded the requirements with the finding that on-call workers may be entitled to pay even when they are not scheduled to work (see Ward v. Tilly’s, Inc., B280 151 (Cal. App. Ct. Feb. 4, 2019)). In the Tilly’s case, workers who were required to call in hours before their shift to verify if they were scheduled or not, were not paid unless they were actually called in to work. The court agreed with the plaintiffs in the case that employees calling in hours before their shift constituted “reporting for work” and as such, they were entitled to pay under state law even though, ultimately, they were not required to work their shift.

If you have questions about California wage and hour law or if you need to discuss wage and hour or overtime requirements, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

California Court Rules On-Call Tilly’s Workers Should Receive Pay

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Some employers require workers to call in in order to find out if they have to work their shifts. Some employees are required to call in just hours before they may need to start work. This practice triggered California’s requirement that workers be given “reporting time pay.” A split California appeals panel recently brought this up when reviving a proposed wage class action against Tilly’s Inc. In doing so, they potentially opened up many other California retailers to similar (potentially expensive) suits.

The Second Appellate District said Tilly’s on-call policy triggers California State’s Wage Order 7, in which it states that employers must provide workers with pay when they report to work but are not put to work or provided with at least half of their usual/scheduled day’s work. Since workers are “reporting” when they call in, Wage Order 7 means employers must pay them between 2-4 hours worth of wages depending on the length of the scheduled shifts being referenced.

Tilly’s practice of having their workers call in to see if they need to work their shifts just hours before they would need to start work, is exactly the type of policy that reporting time pay was intended to stop. The appellate court decision overturned a lower court ruling that tossed the suit when they concluded that the on-call scheduling alleged in the case against Tilly’s triggers Wage Order 7’s reporting time pay requirements. They noted that on-call shifts are a burden to employees who cannot take other employment, attend school or make plans socially because they may need to work, but simultaneously may not receive payment for the time they have set aside unless they are ultimately called in to work.

Tilly’s argues that workers “report” for work under Wage Order 7 only if they physically show up for the start of a scheduled shift. The appellate court concluded that the requirement should be read to include those required to check in before physically arriving on the job before granting worker Skylar Ward’s appeal.

The appellate court noted that while policies like Tilly’s call-in requirement probably didn’t exist when Wage Order 7 was adopted by the state, the reporting time requirement covers situations other than those specifically considered by the drafters.

If you have questions about what is covered by Wage Order 7 or if you are required to call in to report before a shift, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP so we can help you protect your rights in the workplace.

Ex-Dairy Worker Fights Back After Company Responds to Wage Suit by Trying to Have Him Deported

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Jose Arias, former Northern California dairy worker, recently won a million-dollar settlement against his ex-employer’s attorney. Arias originally filed a lawsuit against the dairy alleging wage theft. According to the plaintiff, Arias, the company’s attorney responded by contacting immigration officials to try to get the ex-dairy worker deported.

The retaliation suit against his former employer, Angelo Dairy of Acampo was already settled when the $1 million settlement was announced in the suit against attorney Anthony Raimondo. The settlement followed a federal court’s decision to reinstate Arias’ case. Representation for the plaintiff see the case as an example showing employers that they can’t game the system by cheating their employees of wages and then responding to complaints with threats to deport them.

The attorney who allegedly made the deportation threat, Raimondo, has 20 years of legal experience representing dairies out of Fresno. He denied retaliating against Arias and claimed that his former insurance company insisted the case be settled. Raimondo insists that he is the only person involved in the case who did not break the law.

Arias, an undocumented immigrant, started work with Angelo Dairy in 1995 as a milker. The dairy was supposed to file documents with federal officials that would verify Arias’ work authorization. Instead the employer used his undocumented status as a weapon to limit Arias’ options and keep him in their employ. In 1997, Arias told a company owner that he had a job offer from another dairy. The owner advised him that he would report the other dairy to immigration authorities if Arias took the offer. Arias stayed in his current position, but sued Angelo Dairy in 2006. He claimed the company’s failure to pay overtime and provide required meal and rest breaks were violations of labor law. In 2011, just prior to going to trial, Arias claims Raimondo, the dairy’s lawyer, contacted immigration agencies to purposefully derail the case.

Arias settled the wage suit and dropped his claims against the dairy farm. He says he did so, in substantial part, to avoid deportation. The court documents state that Raimondo contacted ICE a minimum of five times regarding other employees. He also allegedly confirmed his practice of contacting ICE in a June 2013 email to Legal Services Corp., in which he stated that he had acted in the past to deport workers who were suing his clients. Recent statements from Raimondo describe the events differently, insisting that the idea that he retaliated against Arias is ridiculous.

If you are experiencing retaliation in the workplace or if you need to discuss filing suit against an employer due to employment law violations, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

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.

$4M Settlement in Rangoon Ruby Chain Restaurant Wage Theft Suit

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Workers at Rangoon Ruby chain restaurant who claimed they were on call but denied overtime wages will receive a settlement. The Burmese restaurant agreed to pay $4 million to about 300 workers to settle the California wage theft lawsuit. The settlement amount represents the money owed in unpaid wages plus penalties to workers.

What is Overtime? The federal overtime provisions are included in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Unless an employee is exempt, they are covered by the Act and employers should provide them with overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek at a rate not less than time and one-half their regular rate of pay.

The workers who filed suit against Rangoon Ruby described their unpaid overtime work as being “on call.” The restaurant chain owners, Max Lee and John Lee, operates in San Francisco, San Carlos, Burlingame, Belmont, and Palo Alto (where the same management team also runs Burma Ruby Burmese Cuisine). The workers alleged the work requirements left them frustrated and tired and working extra hours without extra pay.

Another plaintiff in the case claimed that the working conditions at Rangoon Ruby left her feeling ill. When she sought time off to see a doctor, Rangoon Ruby management denied her time off request. When she went to the doctor anyway, the restaurant docked her pay even though state law requires employers to provide workers with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Other workers claimed they were summoned for unscheduled shifts without overtime pay in order to cover delivery orders. Since many of the workers were housed in dormitories by Rangoon Ruby, the situation was particularly sensitive because they relied on the restaurant not only for work, but for housing as well.

This settlement agreement is one in a string of victories for restaurant workers in the Bay Area. If you are not being paid overtime wages or if you need to discuss what your rights are in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Did CoreCivic Exploit Immigrant Detainee Labor?

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On April 17th, 2018 a federal class action lawsuit was filed accusing private prison CoreCivic (previously known as Corrections Corporation of America) of exploiting immigrant detainees. The detainees performed work in the ICE detention facilities, particularly Georgia’s Stewart Detention Center. According to the complaint, the private prison company violated state and federal labor laws.

CoreCivic is the largest private prison operator in the nation. It has also been the target of multiple lawsuits in a number of states where it maintains detention facilities. Allegations have included:

·      Inadequate Medical Treatment

·      Employee Misconduct

The company has previously been fined millions of dollars through different government agencies for various contractual violations. Previous coverage of the scandals indicates that there is a common issue threaded throughout the connected stories: a company willing to cut corners and exploit prisoners to increase their profit margin.

While there is no legal precedent uniformly restricting officials of corrections facilities from requiring healthy prisoners to perform labor, the legal status of detained immigrants is a different issue. Immigration violations are civil, therefore the detention of an immigrant is civil in nature with most detained immigrants having no criminal record/history. Regardless of these facts, detained immigrants at Stewart are subjected to prison-like conditions.

The lawsuit also indicates that CoreCivic’s use of immigrant detainee labor to pad their profits is a plan/pattern of systematically withholding basic necessities from detained immigrants to ensure an available (captive) work force to clean, maintain, and operate the facilities for below minimum wage due to threat of criminal prosecution, solitary confinement, etc. The suit refers to the actions as CoreCivic’s deprivation scheme and claims that it ensures that the people detained within Stewart provide the billion-dollar corporation with a ready supply of available labor that is necessary to operate the facility: sweeping, mopping, waxing floors, scrubbing toilets, cleaning showers, washing dishes, cooking, doing laundry, etc. In exchange for their labor, detained immigrants are paid somewhere between $1 and $4 per day by CoreCivic (slightly more on occasion for double shifts). Detainees are paid nowhere near federal minimum wage.

The lawsuit was filed by Wilhen Hill Barrientos, Margarito Velazquez Galicia and Shoahib Ahmed. Plaintiffs noted that the detained immigrants were willing to work for the extremely low wages because they needed the money to purchase necessities like hygiene items and make phone calls.

If you have questions about federally mandated minimum wage or if you are not provided minimum wage by your employer, please contact one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Pilots to Receive $19M Settlement from Southwest Airlines

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In order to settle a recent lawsuit, Southwest Airlines Co. will pay close to $19 million to pilots. The lawsuit alleged that Southwest Airlines did not grant benefits to their pilots who took short-term military leave.

The lawsuit against Southwest was filed by Jayson Huntsman in July 2017 and represented Huntsman along with his fellow pilots. The lawsuit claimed that when a Southwest pilot took short-term military leave, their paid sick leave did not accrue, and they did not receive matching retirement contributions. This lack of benefits applied to short periods of military leave lasting 14 days or less.

Southwest pilots taking short-term military leave of 14 days or less were denied these basic benefits even though benefits were provided to pilots who took other comparable forms of leave (i.e. bereavement, union duty, jury duty, etc.)

Southwest Airlines will provide pilots 100% of their sick leave benefits that they did not receive for this type of short-term military leave from 2008 to the date of preliminary approval. They will also receive 77% of the average sick leave benefits for those affected between 2001 and 2007, which is expected to be valued at more than $13 million according to settlement documents.

According to the settlement, a $5.8 million fund will be created to offer retirement benefits for 401k payments for the years 2001 through 2013. Southwest Airlines will also agree to pay $1,000 to each of the pilots who were affected, but who are no longer employees with the ability to make use of sick leave. The airline will also change the sick leave policy so short-term military leave will no longer be excluded from leaves during which pilots can accrue sick leave from this point forward. This change will provide millions of dollars in future benefits to the class members. Southwest also agreed in the settlement to provide pilots with more information about retirement credit and contributions received for periods of short-term military leave.

If you are being denied benefits by your employer or if you need information on how to join a class action, please get in touch with one of the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.