BCH’s $14.5M Settlement For Unpaid Dog Handlers Profiled by Law360
A case recently handled by our legal team has been profiled in a feature article on Law360.
As the article notes, BCH – which served as co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs – helped secure a $14.5M recovery for hundreds of security dog handlers who alleged they were not paid for time they spent training their K-9s.
While you can access the full article here, the details of the case (Case No. 1:17-cv-05468, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York) concerned 17 named plaintiffs who brought a series of lawsuits against security company Michael Stapleton Associates Ltd., a business which trained dogs for security purposes and operated as MSA Security.
Lawsuits brought by the plaintiffs claimed MSA Security violated state and federal wage laws by failing to pay workers overtime pay for the hours they spent training program dogs at their homes. Two workers additionally claimed they were victims of retaliation for joining the litigation.
The cases were combined in April of 2018, and a settlement deal was negotiated and drafted in March 2019. The presiding judge approved the deal on Friday, August 9, 2019, a day after he stated the settlement provided a reasonable resolution to “difficult and unsettled issues involving wage-and-hour-laws” at a fairness hearing.
The Judge’s approval allows for the $14.5M million total payouts for plaintiffs to be dispersed as follows:
- Equating to roughly $10,000 for each of the 17 named plaintiffs;
- An additional $25K and $10K for the two victims of alleged retaliation;
- A portion of funds to cover settlement administrator and attorneys’ fees; and
- Remaining funds to be split among over 600 dog handlers based on weeks’ worked.
During the final hearing, the Judge agreed that the settlement was reasonable and that attorneys representing the plaintiffs – which includes Robert Cowan and our team at BCH – "vigorously prosecuted this case and conducted an extensive investigation."
We congratulate Rob and our firm’s legal team on their latest victory. BCH has an active practice representing workers across Texas and the U.S. in matters involving employment law and violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), including overtime claims, wage and hour disputes, sexual harassment, and more. Call or contact us to speak with an attorney.
Bay Area Restaurant Ordered to Pay $170K for Overtime Violations
A Thai restaurant in Pleasanton, California has been ordered to pay $170,000 to its employees after federal regulators determined it violated overtime laws.
The findings came from an investigation helmed by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), and revealed violations of federal law involving employee overtime pay. Here are some details about the investigation:
- The WHD investigation covered overtime violations at New Thai Bistro in Pleasanton, CA from March 2016 through January 2019. Regulators determined the restaurant had been paying employees a flat daily or weekly rate without calculating the number of hours employees actually worked.
- According to an article from the East Bay Times, violations involved servers, chefs, and other restaurant employees. Some of the restaurant’s servers worked over 4 overtime hours per week, while chefs and others worked over 11 overtime hours per week.
- In addition to failures to pay overtime to employees who worked over 40 hours in a single week, the restaurant also failed to correctly compensate some workers for overtime; paying a straight-times rate rather than time-and-a-half pay required by federal law.
- Upon the conclusion of the investigation, the restaurant was ordered to pay $172,862 in overtime wages to 14 employees, as well as a nearly $2,000 civil penalty.
Overtime Violations & Workers’ Rights
Workers’ rights and wages are governed by federal law (as well as state law in some states) under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Per the FLSA:
- Covered, non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay at a rate of no less than one and one-half times (“time and a half”) their regular rate of pay after 40 hours of work in a workweek.
- Some exceptions to the 40 hours / week standard apply under certain circumstances, including those involving publicly employed first responders and hospital / nursing home employees.
- Fixed sum or lump sum pay arrangements for work performed during overtime hours do not qualify as an overtime premium.
U.S. employment laws have evolved when it comes to protecting workers’ rights and ensuring they are paid for the work they have done. Unfortunately, employers throughout the nation continually violate federal law proscribed in the Fair Labor Standards Act by misclassifying employees, enacting various non-permitted pay arrangements, or refusing to pay workers correctly for their overtime work.
As public records show, such violations are not uncommon in the restaurant industry. The WHD publishes its investigations into overtime violations on its website, and provides a database for workers who believe they may be entitled to unpaid wage – which you can visit here.
At Bailey Cowan Heckaman, our Houston-based lawyers represent clients nationwide in a range of employment and overtime law matters, including FLSA claims, wage and hour disputes, and cases involving all types of overtime violations. If you have questions about your rights and legal options, call or contact us online. BCH proudly serves clients nationwide.
Ardent Agrees to $2.3M Class Action Settlement Over Offshore Workers’ On-Call Wages
Ardent Companies Inc. has agreed to pay $2.325 million to settle a class action lawsuit filed by oil platform workers who claimed they weren’t paid for on-call time after the end of their daily shifts. The class action settlement against the ExxonMobil contractor would net each proposed class member an average of roughly $14,800.
The case highlights the large potential for wage and overtime claims, as well as unique legal issues and questions related to labor law jurisdiction over workers on offshore platforms.
About the Case
The labor lawsuit – Orozco v. Ardent Companies Inc. – stems from hourly workers who performed job duties on an offshore drilling platform in California. Workers, who worked in “hitches,” or multi-day shifts, would begin and end their work shifts on land, and would travel by helicopter or boat to the offshore platform. Ardent required them to use company-provided transportation, and workers claimed they were unable to leave the offshore platform during their multiple-day shifts.
While claimants worked in 12-hour shifts, they were also on-call during the 12 hours they were off. The lawsuit claims Ardent failed to account for those 12 hours of on-call time, as well as time spent on land or when traveling to and from the drilling platform. The result, the suit alleged, was that workers did not get paid in accordance to overtime and minimum wage laws, and did not receive proper meal and rest breaks as provided for by law.
FLSA & State Labor Law
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is federal law that enforces a number of workplace and employer regulations, including those related to:
- Hourly minimum wage ($7.25 federally);
- Time and a half overtime pay (time and one-half the regular rate of pay) for any hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek.
Per the FLSA, “hours worked,” includes:
- Time workers are required to be on duty;
- When workers must be on the employer’s property or any other prescribed workplace;
- From the start of the work day’s first principal activity to the end of the last workday’s activity.
In addition to the FLSA, the case also implicated California state labor law. Though both are intended to protect workers, state law defines hours worked differently, as:
- All time where workers are subject to employer control; and
- Time employees are “suffered or permitted” to work, regardless of whether they’re required to do so.
Per state law, workers subject to “employer control,” or who can’t leave their place of work, don’t have to be working during those periods in order to be entitled to compensation. This includes time spent sleeping. California also mandates overtime premium pay for time which exceeds 8 hours in a single day or 40 hours in a single week, double time for hours worked following that, meal and rest periods when working beyond a certain number of hours, and a higher minimum wage than the federal minimum.
As this case shows, the question of whether state or federal labor law applies is an important one: California, in this scenario, provides for a more substantial amount of unpaid wages, as well as broader wage protections.
Though both laws protect workers and help them recover the money to which they’re entitled, courts have had differing opinions, especially since offshore platforms are tethered to the seabed not technically within the state’s territorial boundaries. The U.S. Supreme Court will address the matter in its 2019 docket.
Wage and Overtime Questions? Call BCH.
Bailey Cowan Heckaman PLLC has represented many workers in matters of the FLSA, wage and overtime claims, and other employment law cases. As a Houston-based firm representing clients across the nation, we’re available to address labor law issues involving all types of workers – including those with challenging cases related to offshore and platform operations.
Contact us to speak with an attorney about your potential claim. Consultations are free and confidential.
Two Employers Settle Claims Over FLSA Violations, Failures to Include Shift Differentials for Overtime Pay
Wage and overtime claims have become increasingly more common in many states across the U.S., prompting employers to perform their due diligence when calculating overtime pay for their workers. The need for compliance has been promoted by additional regulatory actions, including a March 7th proposed rulemaking notice from the Department of Labor to increase salary test thresholds for overtime exemptions – a rule which could potentially allow an additional million or so employees nationwide to be paid overtime.
While the Labor Department looks to clarify proposed rules, and employers continue to improve their practices and classification of workers in anticipation of more stringent regulations, two separate companies were recently implicated in a pair of settlements with DoL officials after it was alleged they had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Here’s a brief recap of what happened with those cases:
- Two employers, a lighting manufacturer based in Connecticut and a health care provider out of Pennsylvania, agreed to settle allegations from the DoL that they incorrectly calculated employees’ overtime pay in violation of the FLSA.
- Labor Department press releases state the Pennsylvania employer, a continuing care retirement home, paid nearly $40,000 in back wages and damages to more than 90 employees. The lighting company, which though based in Connecticut was implicated for alleged FLSA violations at a distribution facility in Georgia, agreed to pay roughly $138,000 in back wages and damages to over 800 employees.
According to investigations and claims from the Department of Labor, both employers failed to pay the full amount of overtime wages due to their employees because they did not include shift bonuses and shift differentials in their calculations. Both companies also violated the FLSA by failing to maintain accurate payroll and time records.
FLSA Violations Amid Rulemaking Shakeups
The pair of settlements come as the U.S. Labor Department is amending regulations over how employers must calculate workers’ regular pay rate for FLSA purposes, which in turn will impact overtime pay calculations. Under the FLSA:
- Employees, unless exempt, must be paid overtime for any hours worked beyond 40 hours in a workweek at a rate no less than time and one-half (“time and a half”) their regular pay rate – which the FLSA requires to be at least $7.25 per hour, the federal minimum wage.
Under this requirement, employers can structure different workweeks for different workers or groups of workers, but cannot average hours over two or more weeks.
The “regular rate of pay,” which appeared to have been an underlying issue in both the recent settlements, generally includes all remuneration, with some exceptions. Among those are shift bonuses and differentials, which must be included when computing overtime pay. In early 2019, a federal court ruled “blended rates” which used a single pay rate for all hours worked by employees – be they non-overtime or overtime – violate the FLSA.
Houston Wage & Overtime Lawyers Serving Workers Nationwide
Bailey Cowan Heckaman PLLC has earned national recognition for our work protecting the rights of employees in matters involving the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). From investigating employer violations related to FLSA rules to evaluating the correct rate of pay, employee classification, or other labor and employment law violations involving wage and hour disputes, our firm fights to help workers recover the money they’ve rightfully earned. We also represent employees in whistleblower / False Claims Act cases, and matters involving workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful termination, and more.
You can learn more about our services in FLSA cases on our website, or by calling or contacting us online to discuss a potential case. BCH is based in Houston, Texas, and proudly serves workers nationwide.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. Agreed to $16.7 Million Settlement in Overtime Dispute
JPMorgan Chase & Co. agreed to a $16.7 million settlement with a group of assistant branch managers who filed a lawsuit stating that the banking giant had misclassified them as overtime-exempt employees.
The putative classes claiming violations of Connecticut, Illinois, and New York laws, and one class bringing claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) will receive more than $3,000 per member on average to cover unpaid overtime from as far back as 2012.
The lawsuit was first filed in March of 2014 before being certified in September of 2016.
“Given all the risks plaintiffs faced (obtaining class certification, maintaining collective action certification, defeating the class and collective action arbitration waivers, winning liability, proving damages, winning the appeal, etc.) and recognizing that plaintiffs did not work overtime in multiple weeks per year when they took time off or when there were bank holidays, an average gross settlement of about $3,086 is reasonable in this highly-contested matter,” the proposed settlement agreement said.
At Bailey Cowan Heckaman PLLC, our Houston overtime attorneys are committed to fighting for the rights of workers, no matter the size of the company they’re facing down. Since we first opened our doors, we have successfully fought for and secured the legal outcome our clients need. Call us to learn more about what we can do for you, or fill out our online form to start out with a free case consultation.
Texas Appeals Court Pressed to Drop Jefferson County Asbestos Death Suit
Attorneys representing Jefferson County told a Texas appeals court to drop the lawsuit brought by the widow of James Farris, a former judge who died of mesothelioma reportedly caused by the asbestos that filled the courthouse he spent his career working in.
The attorneys stated that the lawsuit is barred by both the Texas Tort Claims Act and the Workers’ Compensation Act. Earlier this year, the Jefferson Country attorneys attempted to argue that the court was not allowed to hear the case because Farris’ widow, Ellarene, failed to pursue all possible administrative remedies available through the workers’ compensation statute. A Harris County district judge rejected this argument after the County’s attorneys admitted they could not find the contracts that supposedly provided workers’ compensation coverage for Judge Farris.
Farris brought her claim under the Texas Tort Claims Act in 2006 in order to seek damages against the courthouse owner, Jefferson County. The Jefferson Country attorneys are arguing that a claim cannot be brought against the County. They argue that Farris should have filed a workers’ compensation claim instead, which she never did.
Judge Michael C. Massengale asked the attorneys whether or not the county needed to prove that Judge Farris received any workers’ compensation coverage, to which they answered that that was not necessary because all county employees are covered – however, elected officials like Judge Farris do not always have this coverage extended to them because it is optional, not mandatory.
“[The county] has to show coverage was actually provided,” Bailey Cowan Heckaman PLLC attorney Justin Jenson said. “Simply passing a resolution does not establish as a matter of law that coverage was provided.”
At Bailey Cowan Heckaman PLLC, our mesothelioma lawyers are committed to fighting for the rights of injured victims throughout the United States. If you were recently diagnosed with this type of cancer, give our firm a call to discuss your situation over the phone, or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation today.
Wyndham Vacation Resorts Inc. Pays $1.5 Million Settlement in Overtime Wage Dispute
Wyndham Vacation Resorts Inc. asked a Wisconsin federal judge to approve a $1.5 million settlement with their employer over wage disputes.
In their lawsuit, the employees claimed that the time-share developer required its employees to work off the clock without receiving overtime pay. According to sales representative Thomas Bitner, Wyndham allegedly forced employees to clock out while closing sales with potential customers in order to prevent their hours from exceeding 40 hours per week.
“The class members’ response to the settlement has been positive, with no class members submitting an exclusion or objection,” the motion said. “Given that this case has proceeded through four years of hotly contested litigation and was being prepared for trial, this result is of great benefit to the class considering the risks of nonrecovery had the case gone to trial.”
Wyndham, the largest time-share developer in the world with more than 185 resorts in countries across the globe, previously attempted to argue that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was not created to provide salespeople in white collar jobs with additional compensation. When that argument failed to gain traction, they attempted to get the class decertified, which was denied by a judge.
At Bailey Cowan Heckaman PLLC, our Houston overtime lawyers are committed to providing our clients with the knowledgeable legal representation they deserve. Send us your information today to request a free consultation, or call us to discuss your case over the phone.
AT&T, Training Managers Agree to $2.75 Million Settlement
A California federal judge recently approved a $2.75 million settlement between AT&T and a class of corporate training managers who alleged that the multi-billion dollar company misclassified them as independent contractors and failed to pay them overtime.
The proposed settlement included a hybrid fund that combines a claims-made fund for people who live outside of California and have not yet asserted a claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and a common fund for class members in California and FLSA opt-ins.
“Settlement now saves class members significant risk of no recovery, the cost of individual litigation, and the delay inherent in further litigation and possible appeals. The litigation is highly complex, both procedurally and substantively,” the complaint said. “Further litigation could easily last several more years and investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars more in costs, and a million dollars or more of attorney time.”
The suit was initially filed in 2015 when training managers tasked with teaching employees at AT&T about its policies and vendors discovered that they were misclassified as independent contractors and therefore exempt from overtime pay.
Our Houston overtime attorneys at Bailey Cowan Heckaman PLLC have dedicated their careers to providing people whose companies failed to pay them the money they are owed with the legal assistance they deserve. Call us today to learn more about what we can do for you, or schedule a free consultation today by filling out our online form.
Rental Car Companies Agree to Pay Nearly $2 Million Owed in Back Pay
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries announced that rental car companies Thrifty and Hertz have agreed to pay nearly $2 million in back pay owed to their workers in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport under the city’s increased minimum wage law.
State officials reported that 157 workers filed claims with the state labor department for the wages they were owed from January of 2014 through September of 2015.
"People have a right to get paid what they've worked hard for," labor department director Joel Sacks said in a statement. "Now that this agreement is in place, we're moving ahead to get this money into the hands of the people who worked hard for it.”
Seattle’s $15 minimum wage took effect at the beginning of 2014, and the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the increased wage also applied to companies located at the airport. The two sides were able to come to an agreement without going to court. According to Matthew Erlich, a spokesperson for the labor department, the deal was made after the complaints were filed with the department.
Workers will receive anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $30,000, including interest. The back wages owed totaled approximately $1.51 million, while the interest ended up being about $458,000 according to the state.
If you are looking to hire an experienced attorney to help you handle your case against your employer, our Houston overtime attorneys at Bailey Peavy Bailey Cowan Heckaman are ready to help you fight for the legal outcome you deserve. With decades of experience facing off against both individuals and massive corporations in court and at the negotiation table, you can rest assured that your case is in good hands when you hire us to represent you. Call us to discuss your situation over the phone, or schedule a free consultation through our online form today.
Judge Grants Preliminary Approval on $8.5 Million Deal to Resolve Wage, Overtime Dispute
Rock-Tenn Co. was granted preliminary approval on an $8.5 million deal to resolve a class action that claimed the paper and packaging company deprived over 800 of their factory workers overtime, wages, and proper breaks.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu M. Berle quickly signed off on the agreement during the hearing, finding it “fair, reasonable and adequate.”
The class action was first filed five years ago, and went through multiple rounds of mediation before finally coming to a suitable arrangement.
“The parties went into mediation willing to explore the potential for settlement but were prepared to litigate their position through trial and appeal if a settlement had not been reached,” the court filing states.
According to the class action against the company formerly known as Rock-Tenn, now called WestRock CP LLC, the company’s policies and practices caused workers to take shortened rest and meal breaks, or even miss them entirely without receiving state-mandated compensation pay. The lawsuit also claimed that employees were shorted on overtime pay by forcing them to work through breaks and off the clock, and by “illegally and inaccurately” tracking their hours worked.
WestRock is one of the biggest paper and packaging companies in the world, with an estimated 42,000 employees working in 30 different countries and $15 billion in annual revenue according to a press release sent out in 2015.
If you have a wage or overtime dispute with your employer, our Houston overtime lawyers may be able to help you fight for and secure the compensation you deserve. Give us a call to explain your situation to one of our lawyers over the phone, or send us your information through our online form to schedule a free consultation with a member of our firm today.