Panera Bread Company has agreed to pay $5 million in order to settle two putative class action lawsuits filed by former restaurant workers who allege that the company failed to pay them overtime and forced them to work without pay during their meal breaks.
According to regulatory filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Panera has allocated funds to be used for the settlement agreement after reaching a deal with the former employees last week. Panera denies any wrongdoing or liability in the lawsuits.
The first of the legal actions was brought by Nick Sotoudeh who filed suit against Panera in California Superior Court in 2009. Sotoudeh claims that Panera refused to pay him overtime, failed to provide meal and rest breaks and further alleged that Panera violated state labor and unfair competition laws. Another former employee, Gabriela Brizuela, was added to Sotoudeh’s amended complaint later that year.
Ms. Brizuela claims that she routinely worked more than 8 hours daily and 40 hours weekly and did not receive appropriate overtime compensation. Additionally, Ms. Brizuela alleges that Panera forced her to work during her meal and rest breaks to which she and other employees are entitled under California state law. Prior to the settlement with Panera, Ms. Brizuela sought to form a class action lawsuit comprised of employees who worked at Panera restaurants in California since 2007.
The second suit addressed by the recent settlement agreement was brought by two former employees against Panera in San Bernadino County Superior court in July 2011 and made similar allegations.
The California Superior Court would have to approve the settlement before it would go into effect, but according to Panera’s filings with the SEC, the company has reserved $5 million for the claims.
A class-action lawsuit was filed last week against Groupon, well known for daily online deals. A former employee, Ranita Dailey will be the lead plaintiff in this lawsuit, claiming that she and nearly 1,000 other employees failed to receive overtime pay for nearly three years. Moreover, the employees assert that even after they started to receive overtime pay, Groupon failed to meet federal requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Dailey submitted a bimonthly pay stub that revealed that out of 106 hours worked, Groupon only paid her for 19.75 hours of overtime pay. However, as non-exempt employee the law requires that she be paid at a rate of no less than time and one-half of regular pay rates for any work over 40 hours in one work week.
The former employees are demanding three years in back wages and liquidated damages.
Law360 quoted The Employment Law Group attorney Nicholas Woodfield regarding the law firm’s landmark unpaid wages victory in Randolph v. ADT Security Services, Inc. Judge Chasanow from the District Court of Maryland held that ADT violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) when it fired two commissioned salespeople because they complained to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (DLLR) that they believed they should be paid for overtime. The plaintiffs purportedly submitted confidential documents to the DLLR to support their FLSA complaint.
The court… determined that whether or not the plaintiffs’ [submission of confidential documents] were reasonable did not matter in this case because lodging an FLSA complaint is participation rather than opposition, and the Fourth Circuit has refused to apply any reasonableness requirement to participation in employment cases.
“[The decision] very clearly vocalizes that you have an absolute right to go to the DLLR or Department of Labor state agencies and support your claim with whatever documents you want,” said Nicholas Woodfield of The Employment Law Group, who represents the plaintiffs.
Noting that Thompson and Randolph were likely properly classified as exempt from the FLSA’s wage requirements based on the commissioned salesperson exemption, Woodfield told Law360 that the decision was especially important for employees because it clarified that their complaining activities — including providing supporting materials to agencies — are protected even if the underlying wage claim doesn’t pan out.
In a unanimous decision, the 9th circuit ruled in the case of Narayan v. EGL, Inc. that California law determines the classification of a worker employed in California even when the worker’s contract contains a choice-of-law provision. Workers’ rights and benefits often vary depending on the worker’s classification as either an employee or an independent contractor. The plaintiffs were truck drivers in California who signed an agreement with EGL, Inc. containing a choice-of-law provision. The provision states that the truck drivers would be subject to the labor laws of Texas. However, the 9th Circuit held that a choice-of-law provision does not determine which state’s law is used to classify a worker when that worker’s claim arises outside the contract. In this case, the claim arises not from the contract itself, but from the California Labor Code which guarantees the following benefits for employees: overtime compensation, reimbursement for business expenses, and off-duty meal periods. The court’s full opinion is here.
The employment attorneys at The Employment Law Group® law firm have extensive experience recouping unpaid wages and fighting for employees who are misclassified as exempt from overtime. To learn more about the firm’s Unpaid Wages and Overtime Practice, click here.
On June 16, 2010, the Department of Labor issued its second Administrator’s Interpretation of 2010, defining “clothes” under section 3(o) of the FLSA, 29 U.S.C § 203(o). Under this new Interpretation, “clothes” refers to apparel and not protective safety equipment generally worn over one’s clothes. Employees required by law to don and off protective gear must be paid for the time spent doing so. A copy of the Administrator’s Interpretation is available here.
The employment attorneys at The Employment Law Group® have extensive experience prosecuting claims for unpaid wages including individual claims and class actions. To learn more about TELG’s Non Payment of Wages Practice, click here.
On June 3, 2010, the Department of Labor announced that Tyson Foods has agreed to pay employees for donning and doffing protective wear as well as time spent washing and sanitizing themselves and their gear. Tyson Foods also agreed to compensate employees for the time spent walking and waiting that occurs throughout the workday. In addition, Tyson Foods will pay $500,000 in overtime back wages to 3,000 employees at its Blountsville, Alabama plant.
For more information about the Fair Labor Standards Act and The Employment Law Group® law firm’s Unpaid Overtime Practice, click here.
On March 3, 2010, Judge Harold Baer, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted class action status to a suit brought against a construction company for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The suit, filed by current and former employees of Raines & Welsh & Sons, Inc., claims the company did not pay its employees for all hours worked and failed to pay them one and a half times their regular rate for overtime. The plaintiffs also allege that the company failed to pay prevailing wages to employees working on government contracts, as required by state and federal law. The action applies to individuals who worked for the company as far back as July 8, 2006, and covers at least 60 employees. The case is Ferrer et al. v. Raines & Welch & Sons Inc., et al., and a copy of the certifying order is available here.
For more information on The Employment Law Group® law firm’s Non-Payment of Wages Practice, click here.
Staples has agreed to a $42 million settlement to resolve 12 wage-and-hour class action lawsuits related to its misclassification of assistant store managers. The settlement comes after several years of litigation, and the claims of unpaid overtime go back to 2002. The settlement includes an agreement that Staples will not appeal a February 2009 jury decision awarding $4.9 million to 343 Sales Mangers. It also resolves a pending case in Massachusetts state court, as well as 10 other cases previously centralized in the District of New Jersey under by the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. The settlement is subject to court approval.
For information on The Employment Law Group® law firm’s Non-Payment of Wages Practice, click here.
Late last week a class action suit brought by UPS delivery drivers against their employer was settled for $12.8 million. The suit alleges that the drivers were misclassified as independent contractors and wrongfully denied benefits and overtime as a result. At least 83% of the $12.8 million is to go to the approximately 660 employees. The plaintiffs are expected to request about $2.02 million in costs and fees. A copy of the complaint is available here.
For information on The Employment Law Group® law firm’s Unpaid Overtime Practice, click here.
The settlement was reached in a putative class action suit originally filed on April 17, 2008. The suit, Danieli et al. v. IBM Corp., alleged that IBM misclassified thousands of employees as exempt from the Fair Labor Standard Act’s (“FLSA”) overtime pay requirements. The plaintiffs claim that as a result of this misclassification, they were underpaid and failed to receive credit for overtime compensation for their retirement plan as required by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The settlement provides $7.5 million including up to $2.5 million going towards attorney’s fees and $150,000 for litigation expenses. The settlement also stipulated that employees in California will receive a higher share due to the stronger claims made under California state law.
According to the settlement agreement, the motivation for the settlement on both sides included the uncertainty in the duration of future litigation as well as amount recovered. Excess costs predicted and accounted for but not spent as well as un-cashed settlement checks will be donated to the Habitat for Humanity.
A copy the Settlement is available here. For information on The Employment Law Group® law firm’s Overtime Practice, click here.