Articles Posted in Class Action

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Most of us have heard of “Equal pay for equal work,” but what about “Equal pay for comparable work”?

Massachusetts has a new labor law that requires employees to be paid equally for “comparable work” regardless of differences such as race or gender. It was passed in 2016, but did not go into effect until July of this year so employers could have a chance to rectify their compensation disparities before the law went into effect. According to a new wage and hour lawsuit, the Boston Symphony Orchestra failed to rectify its alleged disparities before the deadline.

Elizabeth Rowe, the orchestra’s principal flutist, alleges she is paid 75% less than John Ferrillo, the principal oboist, who Rowe claims is her closest comparable colleague.

While a difference of 25% may not seem significant, Rowe alleges it means she is paid $70,000 a year less than Ferrillo. Despite the pay difference, Rowe and Ferrillo play next to each other and both have positions of leadership in the orchestra, as well as artistic roles that are equally demanding. Rowe, who joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2004 after having played in Baltimore, Washington, and Indiana, is one of the orchestra’s most prominent performers. She has been a featured soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra 27 times, which is more times than any other member of the orchestra, according to the lawsuit. Her performances have also gained critical acclaim.

What’s more, Rowe has been featured in marketing campaigns and fundraising tours and events, including a trip to Japan in 2017, in which she was the only featured soloist aside from Jessica Zhou, the principal harpist who also happens to be the only other female principal player in the orchestra. While determining pay is often a complicated process with many factors that go into it, it does seem odd that someone who gets featured in solos and actively promoted as the face of the Boston Symphony Orchestra should not be among its most highly-compensated members. Continue reading

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Many employers still use the fluctuating workweek to manage the payroll of employees who have to work some weekends, but not others. The employers claim it all evens out in the end, but employee advocates say otherwise, especially when it comes to overtime.

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines overtime as any time spent working after eight hours a day or forty hours a week. That means any time an employee works more than forty hours within a seven-day time span is overtime, but with fluctuating workweeks, it doesn’t always get counted as overtime. For example, if an employee works six days in a row, but one or more of those days count towards another pay period (in which they have, let’s say, two days off before going back to work) then that sixth day in a row of work never gets counted as overtime, even though it should under the current labor law.

One of the latest companies to be hit with an overtime class action lawsuit as a result of their fluctuating workweek schedule is Cerner, a health information technology company. The employment lawsuit, which was initially filed in 2014, alleged Cerner used a payroll processing system that system failed to properly calculate workers’ overtime wages by not including all the wages, commissions and bonuses they had earned into their regular rate of pay, in addition to the allegedly unfair fluctuating workweeks. When they did pay workers for overtime hours, they allegedly did so a full pay period late. Continue reading

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It’s common for employers to ask job candidates about their work history and salary requirements, but what about when companies start asking about a candidate’s salary history? Is that legal?

The difference between salary requirement and salary history is that a salary requirement is a compensation you are asking for the job for which you are applying, whereas salary history refers to what you were paid in previous positions. A potential employer asking for your salary requirement is perfectly fair and legal, but asking for your salary history is another matter entirely.

Women’s rights advocates have long pointed out the unfairness of gender discrimination when it comes to how much employers are willing to pay their workers, and they say the problem often starts with asking candidates what they earned in previous positions. Since payment disparities between the genders have existed for decades, using a candidate’s salary history to determine how much they should be paid in a new position is often just a way to perpetuate that disparity. Many cities and states across the country have started prohibiting employers from asking candidates about their salary history for that very reason. Continue reading

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In addition to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and local labor laws that regulate things like overtime and the minimum hourly wage an employee can be paid, Illinois also has the Day and Temporary Services Act, which protects day laborers and temporary workers in Illinois who are even more vulnerable than full-time and part-time minimum wage employees. Day and temporary workers are more likely than other employees to become victims of minimum wage and overtime violations, and are less likely to be paid or to be paid in full, for all the hours they worked.

One of the biggest problems these workers face is employers who want to keep them “on call” for days they may or may not need to come in. Workers are required to keep this time open in case their employer needs them to come into work, but if the employer does not need them, then they don’t get paid for that day and were unable to work another job during that time.

Under the Illinois Day and Temporary Services Act, employers are required to pay their workers at least four hours’ worth of wages on the days that workers have to set aside but are not required to come into work.

Temporary laborers who are hired through staffing agencies are entitled to employment notices from their agencies telling them the days they’ll be working, what kind of work they’ll be doing, the wages they’ll be paid, and whether meals and/or transportation will be provided. They are also entitled to pay stubs that detail the number of hours they spent working within the pay period, the hourly wage they earned, the total amount they were paid during the pay period, and any deductions taken from their pay for things like taxes or equipment. Continue reading

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Although arbitration was not designed to handle class actions or collective actions, mediation with the help of an arbitrator can be achieved for a group of plaintiffs, with the help of class representatives, as in the recent wage and hour lawsuit against Google Fiber Inc. and ITC Service Group Inc.

Google Fiber hired ITC as a contractor to install and service Google’s products in Kansas City, one of the cities in which Google provides its own brand of internet and TV services. While working on Google Fiber’s products, employees for ITC allege they were made to perform work for which they were never paid, including work they performed before their shifts began, and work they did over their unpaid lunch breaks when they were “clocked out.”

The lawsuit further alleged supervisors were misclassified as exempt from overtime, even though they allegedly did not meet all the requirements for the FLSA’s overtime exemption.

When the lawsuit was first filed, ITC was the only defendant listed on the complaint, but Google Fiber was later added as a second defendant. Not only were the ITC workers performing work for Google Fiber, but they also allege that they were made to announce themselves as Google employees and wear gear bearing the Google brand while on the job. As a result, the complaint alleged Google was at least partially responsible for the alleged wage and hour violations. Continue reading

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Since federal courts tend to rule in favor of Big Business, most companies prefer to dispute overtime lawsuits in federal court, but their ability to do so has some limitations. Among those limitations is the requirement that the total amount of the claims for which plaintiffs are filing add up to at least $5 million.

According to a California federal judge, an overtime class action lawsuit against Bank of America did not meet that requirement, so Judge Vince Chhabria granted the plaintiff’s request to remand the case back to Alameda County Superior Court.

Bank of America allegedly underpaid its business bankers by refusing to properly compensate them for the hours they worked after eight hours in a day or forty hours a week. In its motion to have the case moved to federal court, Bank of America alleged the claims involved, plus the attorneys’ fees and legal costs, added up to at least $8 million.

Judge Chhabria did not follow the bank’s logic, since that number assumes each plaintiff worked 2.5 hours of overtime for 90% of the weeks in the proposed class period.

Laura Lopez, one of the named plaintiffs in the proposed class action lawsuit, provided evidence that she did not actually work that many hours of overtime for most of the weeks included in the class period – some weeks she worked no overtime and she was on vacation for others. Continue reading

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Many children have big dreams of growing up to become a professional athlete and get paid millions of dollars to play their favorite sport. For baseball players, the best way to get into the major leagues is by playing in the minor leagues, which acts as a feeder system on which the major league clubs rely to get their newest star players.

But the minor league players don’t see anywhere near the amount of money the major league players make, despite the fact that they work just as hard as, if not harder than, those playing in the major leagues. According to a recent class action lawsuit filed against Major League Baseball (MLB) and Minor League Baseball (MiLB), minor league players allegedly worked more than 50 hours a week on a regular basis during the season, and yet some of them were paid as little as $1,100 per month.

The MLB insists the players don’t have a case – that the number of hours each player spent working varies too much to justify a class action lawsuit, and that baseball players don’t qualify as hourly workers under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Continue reading

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In order for plaintiffs to successfully file a class action or collective action lawsuit against a common defendant, one of the things they need to be able to prove is that they were all subject to the same, systematic treatment by the defendant. In wage and hour class action lawsuits, this means the alleged misconduct needs to be a standard part of the defendant’s practices. Even an unwritten rule can be subject to a large lawsuit if it resulted in employees consistently receiving the same treatment.

When plaintiffs from six different states all allege they were subjected to similar mistreatment by their employer, their petition for class action or collective action stands a pretty good chance of getting the OK from a judge.

In early 2014, seven current and former service technicians for General Electric Co. all alleged they had not been properly compensated for the time they spent working under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and various state laws. The technicians worked for the power company in Delaware, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Florida. Not only was their petition for collective action granted, but the wage and hour lawsuit was also combined with a similar lawsuit that had been filed in Florida against GE the year before. Continue reading

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When a class of plaintiffs wins their class action lawsuit against their defendant, or the case settles outside of court, it is common practice for the named plaintiffs to receive at least a few thousand dollars each, in addition to their share of the award or settlement amount. This extra share is known as an incentive award and is meant to encourage potential plaintiffs to file class action lawsuits against large defendants, which tend to be large corporations that have much more leverage than the plaintiffs, both in business and in the courts.

But a Florida judge recently refused the incentive awards for the six named plaintiffs who filed a class action overtime lawsuit against their former employer, Hartford Fire Insurance Co. Despite the fact that he approved the rest of the $3.7 million to settle the legal dispute, U.S. District Judge Roy B. Dalton said the plaintiffs had not submitted sufficient evidence to show that the named plaintiffs had significantly contributed to the case or taken any serious risks. Continue reading

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Class actions are a powerful and important tool for individuals with similar claims against a common defendant. Often, the defendant is a large, powerful corporation with a team of expensive attorneys at its disposal. Most employees and consumers do not have the resources to take on these corporations in court on their own, not to mention the fact that their individual claims are usually too small to justify the expenses associated with filing a lawsuit.

The class action solves all these problems. It allows individuals with similar complaints against a common defendant to combine their claims into one, large claim. It also provides them with the leverage they need to arm themselves with competent legal representation.

But plaintiffs looking to combine their claims need class certification from a court judge, and in order to get that, they need to prove the class meets certain requirements.

One of those requirements is that all the members of the class must have claims and situations that are similar enough to justify filing all their claims together. This is a common target for defendants to attack, often claiming that plaintiffs are not eligible for class certification because their situations are not exactly identical. This view was perpetuated in the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Wal-Mart a few years ago, but many judges are still certifying class actions all over the country and maintaining that their certifications are still in line with both the relevant class action law and the Supreme Court’s decision. Continue reading