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Accounting Firm Settles Overtime Claim with Auditing Related Employees

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines overtime as any time spent working after eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. It also requires all employers to pay their workers one and one half times their normal hourly rate for all the overtime they spend working. There are some exceptions to the rule of overtime compensation, but the FLSA is very specific about the types of employees that can qualify for exemption from the overtime compensation requirement. Nevertheless, there are times when the line between who qualifies and who doesn’t can get a little blurry.

Under the FLSA, an employee can qualify to be held exempt from overtime if they fit into one of three categories: administrative, executive, or professional. In order to qualify for the administrative category, an employee must perform primarily office work and provide assistance directly to an executive. For the executive category, an employee has to spend the majority of her time managing other employees, have the authority to discipline those employees, and have direct say in the hiring and firing of those employees. The professional category is made up of all those workers whose jobs require a particular set of skills or level of higher education. Attorneys, doctors, and entertainers are just some of the types of workers who generally fit into the professional category.

Certified public accountants also fit into the professional category, but, according to a recent wage and hour class action lawsuit against PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC, auditors do not.

In 2007, Lac Anh Le, who worked as an auditor for Price Waterhouse, filed a wage and hour lawsuit in California on behalf of all auditors who worked for Pricewater from December 11, 2005 to June 15, 2010, were not certified as public accountants, and were classified as exempt from the premium overtime compensation.

According to the lawsuit, the auditors did not have the same qualifications as certified public accountants (who need to take special classes and have extensive knowledge of the American tax system). As a result, the class of plaintiffs are alleging Price Waterhouse violated the FLSA by refusing to pay their auditors the premium overtime compensation when they worked more than 40 hours a week.

California labor law also requires all its employers to provide their hourly, nonexempt workers with regular meal and rest breaks throughout the day. For every day an employee misses one of these breaks, for any reason, she is entitled to one hour’s worth of wages, in addition to all wages, overtime, bonuses, tips, etc. earned that day. The recent wage and hour lawsuit against Price Waterhouse further alleged its auditors had been illegally denied these breaks.

In 2015, the two parties agreed to settle the dispute for $1.5 million and the settlement has just been granted preliminary approval by a court judge, who also stayed any further action in the case and suggested the parties file a motion to for final approval of the settlement before August 5, 2016.

The settlement covers approximately 1,350 current and former employees who worked as auditors for Price Waterhouse. The terms of the settlement allow Price Waterhouse to continue to deny having done anything illegal and to maintain their current classification of their current auditors.

The Chicago class action and employment law attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have three decades of experience fighting to help employees who are victims of wage, overtime and tip theft by their employers. We have a team of Chicago unpaid overtime lawyers who concentrate on prosecuting state and nationwide class action lawsuits. Our attorneys work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices and pursue claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Berwyn and Bollingbrook. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.

Our Gurnee and Cicero overtime and employment 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 mis-classify 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 Oak Brook, and represents clients throughout the country who have unpaid overtime and other employment right claims.