01/16/2012 // Los Angeles, CA , USA // Keller Grover LLP // Los Angeles Employment Lawyer Eric Grover
Los Angeles, CA (Los Angeles Employment Lawyer News) — Two former AirTouch Cellular employees who claimed their former employer failed to pay them adequate compensation and sued the company and lost in a California lower court, got a little redemption in the appeals court. The appeals court affirmed the lower court’s ruling that the plaintiffs aren’t owed any additional compensation in the employment wage and hour lawsuit, but also found that the trial court erred when they found that the plaintiffs owed $286,000 collectively in attorney’s fees, reports Eric Grover of Keller Grover LLP.
The former AirTouch (doing business as Verizon Wireless) employees worked as “retail sales representatives” or “customer service representatives,” before filing the putative class action in 2007. The plaintiffs asserted that AirTouch had violated two provisions of the Industrial Welfare Commission’s (IWC) Wage Order 4, by failing to pay “reporting time pay” on days when work-related meetings were scheduled and employees were required to attend. Furthermore, the lawsuit alleged that AirTouch neglected to compensate employees for “split shifts” on days in which they attended a meeting in the morning, and worked a shift later the same day. AirTouch contended that the plaintiffs received all compensation to which they were rightfully entitled, reports California employment lawyer Eric Grover states.
During the initial trial, AirTouch moved for a summary judgment against one the named plaintiffs. Airtouch was successful in arguing that the plaintiff’s pay was not at or near minimum wage; therefore he was not entitled to additional pay for working a split shift. In addition, the court found that the plaintiff was not owed reporting pay, because all the meetings the plaintiff attended were scheduled and was paid for working the scheduled time.
The plaintiff did not dispute the facts and even acknowledged that he received payment for all hours reflected on his time sheet; but he asserted that he should be paid additional compensation for five instances he worked less than four hours, and split shift premiums for the five times he worked a split shift, the lawsuit read.
The trial court agreed with AirTouch that plaintiff was not entitled to reporting time or split shift pay under Wage Order’s 4 provisions, reports Grover, a Los Angeles employment attorney.
AirTouch also moved for summary judgment against a second plaintiff on other grounds. In the case of that plaintiff, AirTouch argued that the plaintiff had signed an agreement in April 2008, while the lawsuit was pending, in exchange for the right to exercise long-term incentive awards. By signing the agreement, the plaintiff received $25,796.28 and released AirTouch from “any and all claims.”
The plaintiff argued that she was still owed reporting time and split shift pay, and that the release was “patently invalid as it cannot bar [an employee] from proceeding in an action to collect split shift premiums and reporting time pay to which she was undisputedly entitled,” the lawsuit said.
The trial court also found that she was not undisputedly owed reporting time and split shift fees; the agreement was valid and supported by consideration, which gave the plaintiff an incentive award payment that she would not have otherwise received if she didn’t sign the release. The summary judgment motion was ultimately granted to AirTouch.
The trial court also awarded AirTouch attorneys’ fees from both of the plaintiffs and denied certification of a class action. The court ordered plaintiffs to pay AirTouch $286,000 in fees.
Plaintiffs appealed and the appeals court affirmed the summary judgment orders but reversed the orders regarding the payment of attorneys’ fees, since both plaintiffs claims were subject to Labor Code section 1194. That section of the labor code provides recovery of fees only by a plaintiff in an action to recover unpaid minimum wage or overtime compensation.
This news was brought to you by the Los Angeles employment lawyers at Keller Grover LLP.
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