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Suit Alleges Silicon Valley Execs Conspired To Keep Wages Low

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law on October 30th, 2013

Class action lawsuit in an alleged “overarching conspiracy”

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose has granted class action status to a lawsuit alleging an “overarching conspiracy” amongst major Silicon Valley companies to suppress employee compensation obtained from moving from one company to another.

By winning the class action certification, the more than 60,000 plaintiffs made up of technical employees including: software and hardware engineers, component designers, application developers, among others, now have more leverage to seek larger financial settlements than if they were to sue individually.

In 2011, five software engineers sued Adobe Systems Inc., Intel Corp., Apple Inc., and Google Inc., among others over their hiring practices, alleging that the Silicon Valley companies conspired with other local executives to limit the workers’ pay by barring them from moving from one company to another, thus suppressing employee compensation to artificially low levels.

In conspiring to eliminate competition for labor and depriving workers of job mobility as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation, the defendants were accused of violating the Sherman Act and Clayton Act antitrust laws.

In their original complaint, the plaintiffs sought certification of an “All Employee” class that would include every salaried employee throughout the United States who worked for the defendant companies between 2005 and 2009. That number was estimated to be more than 100,000.

The plaintiffs limited their class action group, now down to 60,000 after Judge Koh said they had yet to show enough in common amongst these proposed class members to allow them to sue together.

Much of the case built on email exchanges

The case has been closely watched in Silicon Valley as much of it has been built on email exchanges between top executives, including the late Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs as well as former Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt.

In granting class-action status to the suit Koh cited what she termed “considerable, compelling common proof” that the Silicon Valley companies engaged in antitrust behavior by agreeing not to try to lure away each others’ employees.

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation
http://www.employmentforall.org/

Unpaid Overtime Lawsuit Filed Against McDonald’s

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law, Unpaid Overtime on October 24th, 2013

McDonald’s shaved hours off of employees’ time cards

In the latest of unpaid overtime lawsuits popping up nationwide, one of the most recent is recently filed class action lawsuit alleging that McDonald’s is tampering with shift records in an effort to cut costs. Allegedly more than 12 McDonald’s restaurants in New York — all owned by the same person — have shaved hours off of employees’ time cards.

Plaintiff Jeffrey Schuyler is at the forefront of these unpaid overtime lawsuits that target Ralph Crawford, a successful McDonald’s franchise owner. The alarms went off when Crawford began requesting alarmingly high time punch changes. Suddenly, hundreds of employees’ overtime hours were changed to eight-hour shifts. But Crawford might not be the only one to blame.

While Crawford was the person actually physically changing the time cards, the class action lawsuit claims that the McDonald’s corporation encouraged it.
Allegedly, a manager is alerted with a warning message on the time card management screen when an employee works overtime, scaring the managers into changing the records since being paid time and a half isn’t conducive to making money.

“Time Shaving” a regular practice at McDonald’s

Schuyler was told by his supervisor that “time shaving” was a regular practice at McDonald’s. When he checked other employees’ time records he was shocked to find managers were regularly erasing one full hour from employees’ shifts. According to the lawsuit, when he realized what was happening, he complained and as a result was demoted and then fired.

Schuyler was given $1,000 to make up for his lost hours. When the time shaving continued, he complained again — this time to Crawford directly.

Following a meeting between Crawford and Schuyler, Schuyler consulted a wage and hour attorney and filed a class action lawsuit against McDonald’s along with the support of hundreds of employees. The case alleges that McDonald’s tampers with time sheets and forces employees to work through breaks.

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation
http://www.peterlawfirm.com

Internships: Are They A Learning Experience or Just Free Labor?

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law on September 5th, 2013

Former intern seeks class action lawsuit

A former intern is seeking a class-action lawsuit against Donna Karan International over his unpaid internship at the company in 2009.

Vallentino Smith claims that he clocked in 16 hours a week without pay when he was an undergraduate student working at the company’s Seventh Avenue headquarters.

Smith’s lawyer, Lloyd Ambinder, said his client, like a lot of undergraduates trying to build up their resumes, went for an internship in a glamorous industry where jobs are harder to get. “They took advantage of him. You don’t see this in waste management or funeral homes.”

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, an internship must meet certain criteria in order to be classified as unpaid without violating the law. One such example is that the internship must be “for the benefit of the intern” and be “similar to training which would be given in an educational environment.”

“Get the coffee…”

“I was told it would be a great learning experience,” Smith said of the 16 hours a week that he logged. However, instead of learning about marketing, he said all he did was get coffee and organize fashion closets.

Smith who now has a master’s degree from Long Island University, is seeking retroactive pay for the hours he worked (at a minimum wage rate of $7.15 per hour) and would like his case to be classified as a class-action lawsuit so he can represent at least 100 other unpaid Donna Karan interns. Ambinder said Karan took on at least two-dozen unpaid interns during the same spring semester that Smith worked there.

Smith’s accusations are the latest in a group of unpaid internship lawsuits questioning companies that take on unpaid interns. Legal experts have predicted that the trend in these unpaid internship lawsuits is likely to spread and that employers across industries should “take note.”

We’re Too Busy for a Break

By Scott posted in Unpaid Overtime on August 16th, 2013

If you have ever worked an hourly wage position, you probably heard in training that the employer was “required” to give you a 30-minute lunch break every shift over a certain number of hours. Employers make a big deal about legal responsibility and break times, yet many employees experience times when they are forced to work through their lunch hour because it was “just too busy” that day.

It is true that a 30-minute meal break is required under California Law for every 5 hours worked by each employee. This means that the employee must take a complete break from any and all work duties. If they are answering phone calls, returning phone calls, answering questions, updating records or anything else they are not on an uninterrupted lunch break.

If you work an 8.0 hour day without a lunch break, you should be credited with 30 minutes of overtime pay. What this basically means is that for every 30 minute lunch break the employer fails to give the employee, they must pay that employee for one hour of work time. An employer cannot claim that an employee waived their right to lunch if the employee chooses to work through lunch because they are too busy and there is no one available to relieve them.

Violations of this law have led to serious lawsuits for employers. A large retail store was required to pay more than $170 million in compensatory damages to approximately 116,000 employees who worked at several of the retailer’s California stores. If you feel that your right to a lunch break has been violated in any way do not be afraid to seek the advice and assistance of an employment law attorney.

Employment Lawyer Los Angeles – Peter K. Levine

Source: Dateline USA “Automatic 30-minute deductions for lunch may be illegal” Joe Sayas 9/14/10

Lawsuit seeks class action status for unpaid overtime

By Scott posted in Unpaid Overtime on August 16th, 2013

Two former utility workers have filed a federal lawsuit claiming that they were forced to work extra hours, but were not compensated for the overtime hours they worked. The lawsuit claims the company had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, and is seeking unpaid wages and punitive damages.

The attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the two former employees is also seeking class action status, which would allow other former and current employees with similar complaints to also join in on the lawsuit. The claim is that all of the hourly customer service associates who worked for the company for at least the past three years were forced to work in excess of 40 hours per week, but were not compensated for their time.

According to the two employees who filed the recent lawsuit, they were required to work more than 40 hours a week but were not paid for their overtime, which should have been time and a half of their regular pay. Part of this overtime pay also stems from supposedly having to come in earlier before shifts to prepare work spaces and cash drawers, and then have to also continuing working after clocking out to count their cash drawer and deposits.

In addition to the unpaid overtime, the lawsuit also claims that the company forced them to work through breaks, and that they were not paid for their lunch breaks.

One of the employees who filed the lawsuit said that she was considered a “floating” associate who would sometimes have to travel to three different company locations during the day, but that she was not paid for her travel time.

Looking to the future of this case, an attorney for the former employees is seeking class action status, but there is no word yet on how many employees that could potentially include.

Source: San Antonio Express, “SAWS hit with lawsuit on pay,” Guillermo Contreras, 18 May 2011

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