Not all employers try to cheat their workers out of their wages, but those who do frequently get away with it for a time because their workers aren’t familiar with the terms of the law. But when the employees are paralegals and/or have served on the jury of a previous wage and hour lawsuit, it can change the game.
Caridad D. worked as a paralegal for Sanchelima & Associates PA, an intellectual property firm in South Florida, for several years before her employment there was terminated in November 2013. In that time she allegedly worked many hours of overtime for which she was never paid.
After deciding to file claims for her unpaid overtime under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Daniels called Michael Feiler, an attorney who had represented workers in another FLSA lawsuit for which Conrad had been on the jury.
Florida law forbids attorneys from contacting any of the jurors in their cases unless the court grants them approval. Feiler said he was aware of the law and was very careful not to discuss the previous case with his new client.
Nevertheless, when Sanchelima & Associates became aware of the connection, they filed a motion to have Feiler disqualified from the case. The court acknowledged that Feiler had violated the law in a literal sense, but that it was not enough to override Conrad’ right to choose her own counsel. The court therefore ruled that the defendant’s attempt to have the attorney disqualified was nothing more than gamesmanship and refused the request.
The other plaintiff in the wage and hour lawsuit was Lazaro T., who also worked for the IP firm as a paralegal and assistant for several years before her employment was terminated in December 2014. Together, Conrad and Lazaro alleged they were owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid overtime.
The two parties have agreed to settle the overtime lawsuit outside of court and now they are just waiting for the judge to grant preliminary approval of the settlement. Settlements must have preliminary approval and then final approval by a judge before the case can be dismissed for good. It is the judge’s responsibility to make sure the settlement is fair to both parties by taking into consideration the strength of each side’s case.
In court documents, Sanchelima & Associates continues to deny having done anything illegal, but settling the lawsuit outside of court allows the IP firm to avoid the hassle and expense of further litigation. Even if the firm is certain of its innocence, juries can be unpredictable and a settlement allows the employer to pay significantly less than it would likely end up having to pay if a jury ruled against them.
Conrad and Lazaro likewise get to avoid the uncertainty of further litigation in which there’s always the possibility of a jury ruling against them, regardless of the strength of their case. It is therefore likely to be in their best interests to take the sure settlement over the possibility of a jury ruling in their former employers’ favor.
The Chicago and Oak Brook class action attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center are investigating unpaid overtime claims against hospitals, senior and assisted living centers and large doctor and dental practices and chains for erasing or altering time sheets or time records, pressuring workers not to report or record overtime, and otherwise failing to pay workers for overtime and other wages. If you are the victim this practice call us at (312) 869-4095 or contact us online by filling in the form at the side of this blog.
The Chicago unpaid overtime lawyers at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have decades of experience fighting for wage earner’s rights. We have a team of Chicago unpaid overtime attorneys who focus on nationwide class action lawsuits and work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices and prosecute claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Addison and Wheaton. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, McHenry Kane and Cook Counties.
Our Plainfield and Schaumburg overtime lawyers are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers misclassify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages.
The Chicago Overtime Law Center is based in Chicago and represents clients throughout the country who have not been paid for the overtime hours that they worked. If you believe that you are owed overtime wages, contact one of our Chicago class action attorneys by phone at (312) 869-4095 or through our online form.