$7.5 Million Comcast Wage Lawsuit Settlement

comcast wage lawsuit settlementComcast wage lawsuit settlement. On the heels of two years of litigation between Comcast/O.C. Communications and roughly 4,500 technicians, a class action suit was settled for $7.5 million plus litigation fees. The battle was over failure to pay workers for all of their hours, failure to pay for piecework, neglecting to pay overtime, and, in some cases, refusing to pay minimum wage. If you have experienced similar problems in the workplace, an efficient and knowledgeable labor law attorney may be able to help. 

Details of the Comcast Wage and Hour Lawsuit Case

According to the wage lawsuit settlement records, O.C. Communications, who teamed up with Comcast Cable Communications Management, hired a number of non-exempt cable technicians to install and maintain cable connections. The workers claimed that they were not paid for rest and/or meal breaks. In addition, they were not reimbursed after submitting detailed expense reports. These claims of underpayment were compounded by the assertion that workers’ wage statements were neither itemized nor accurate.  

Workers shared personal accounts to illustrate the problems:

  • One employee was assigned four times his normal workload one day. His boss told him to eat his lunch while driving from one installation site to another, and get the job done without taking breaks;
  • Another employee was required to supply his own tools and supplies, including everything from screwdrivers and staple guns to various types of cable and drill bits.  This, in addition to work boots and pants.
  • One former employee asserted that working conditions were often unsafe, saying that typically workers might climb 28-ft. ladders and shimmy through confined spaces like attics all in the same day. Oftentimes, buildings were rat-infested and crawl spaces were littered with rat feces. Nonetheless, workers were not given protective equipment.
  • Mandated overtime was the biggest complaint for another employee, who said 12-hour days were the norm, adding up to 60-hour work weeks on a regular basis.

Reaching a Settlement

The court refused to sanction the original settlement agreement for a number of reasons:

  • Judge Chhabria believed the claims to hold “substantial merit,” and the labor code violations appeared to be a systemic problem for the defendants.
  • The settlement involved an amount that was well below what employees were entitled to, and the judge was reluctant to give the companies such a big break unless there was evidence that their business practices would be brought into compliance with Labor Codes.

Ultimately, the parties did settle, and the $7.5 million will be divided among the 4,500 workers who formulated the class action. [Read more…]

Labor Dispute – McDonald’s Brand Scrutinized

labor disputeLabor dispute; joint employer or franchise? After years of complaints and protests against low wages and other labor issues, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) eventually issued grievances against McDonald’s in 2015. Wage and labor complaints from multiple franchises in California cities and others across the country were consolidated. Beneath all the labor issues lies the question, is McDonald’s USA a joint employer of franchise employees, and therefore responsible for the treatment of employees at individual franchises?

Labor Dispute Issue

The central problem in the lawsuit surrounds franchise operators’ response to employee demonstrations. McDonald’s workers claim they were fired after participating in protests organized by a labor advocacy group called Fight for $15. According to the group, workers across the country lost their jobs simply for participating in these protests.

The Lawsuit

So who is responsible for the actions of individual franchises? Does the mother corporation hold any liability when their franchises are found guilty of labor or safety violations? What implications would a decision one way or the other have on the way business is conducted across the nation?

McDonald’s argued that it simply rents out its brand to individual franchises, and every franchise is an independent business. Policies are particular to each business, and are out of the corporation’s hands.

Conversely, the NLRB hoped to expand the joint employer doctrine, extending liability to corporations to whom they franchise their brands.

Many observers felt that a ruling against McDonald’s—naming it as a joint owner–would increase franchisors’ vulnerability to legal action, toppling the franchise model altogether. Anxious to avoid having to agree that it is a joint employer, McDonald’s agreed to a settlement in which they admitted no wrongdoing, but resolved claims with an undisclosed payout to employees.

Fight for $15 was not quite as eager to settle the case, arguing that McDonald’s needed to publicly take responsibility for surveilling, harassing and firing employees who were simply standing up for themselves against paltry wages by engaging in legally protected activity.

So how did the judge respond to the proposed labor dispute settlement?

Not so Fast…

Administrative Law Judge Lauren Esposito found that unfair practices by the McDonald’s chain were not adequately addressed, and the proposal was summarily rejected.

McDonald’s USA responded with disappointment, noting that expensive, time-consuming labor dispute litigation would extend for months or years to come. The possibility of an appeal of the court’s decision is being evaluated.

Fight for $15 was delighted with the labor dispute ruling, hoping to hold McDonald’s feet to the fire and force the corporation to take responsibility for the wages and working conditions employees suffered.  Everything is on hold while both sides decide how to proceed. [Read more…]

Collecting Attorney Fees in EEOC Discrimination Case

EEOC Discrimination CaseNew Supreme Court ruling is a boon to employers hoping to collect attorney’s fees in an EEOC discrimination case. If your company is dealing with an EEOC complaint, you will most likely find the Supreme Court’s recent decision in CRST Van Expedited, Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to be welcome news. The case involved a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which held that a defendant in a Title VII case (such as an employer) is only entitled to payment for its attorney’s fees if it prevails in court after a “ruling on the merits.” The Supreme Court overturned this decision, and held that it is possible for a defendant to prevail and receive compensation for attorney’s fees, even without a ruling on the merits.

EEOC Discrimination Case Background

CRST’s EEOC discrimination case legal battle (which has lasted for over a decade) began when an employee named Monika Starke filed a complaint with the EEOC in 2005. She alleged that, over the course of her training as a truck driver, she was sexually harassed by two of her trainers. CRST denied the allegations. When the EEOC investigated, it discovered that four other employees had filed complaints. The EEOC ultimately found that there was reasonable cause to believe that an entire class of employees had been subjected to sexual harassment, and filed a lawsuit against CRST under Title VII on behalf of the aggrieved employees.

The EEOC eventually named more than 250 female employees of CRST as victims of sexual harassment. At trial, the District Court found that the EEOC had not satisfied its presuit requirements, and barred the EEOC from seeking relief for any of the employees. When CRST requested compensation for its EEOC discrimination case legal fees, the District Court approved the motion, and awarded CRST over $4 million in attorney’s fees.

An appeal, the Eighth Circuit found that CRST should not receive compensation for attorney’s fees. It reasoned that, due to precedent, only “prevailing” parties can receive compensation for attorney’s fees, and a party can only prevail if there has been a judicial determination of the plaintiff’s case on the merits. Because some of the complaints were thrown out due to the EEOC’s handling of the presuit requirements, the Court found that there had not been a ruling on the merits. According to the Court, there is a distinction between a ruling based on the elements of a claim (which would constitute a determination on the merits), and a ruling based on prerequisites to filing suit.

The Supreme Court disagreed, and held that there should be no requirement that a case be resolved “on the merits” in order for the defendant to be awarded attorney’s fees. According to the Court’s ruling, common sense dictates that a defendant has prevailed whenever a plaintiff’s claim has been rejected. The Court vacated the Eighth Circuit’s ruling, remanded the case for further proceedings, and urged the lower courts to expedite the resolution because the dispute has already taken so much time. [Read more…]

Disclaimer

The information on this website should not be considered to be legal advice, nor construed to be the formation of any manner of attorney client relationship. Prior to taking any form of legal action, please consult with an attorney experienced in the appropriate area of law germane to your situation. Case results and testimonials presented on www.californialaborandemploymentlaw.net or any of its related websites are germane to the facts present for each individual case and is not a promise of similar outcomes for any other cases. This website is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the State of California.