Week Adjourned 10.30.15 – Amazon, Anthem Blue Cross, CVS

amazon logoTop Class Action Lawsuits 

Amazon not Ready for Prime Time? Amazon’s Prime Now “Instant gratification market” is great for everyone but the delivery guys, according to a lawsuit filed against the online retailer this week. Amazon got hit with a proposed employment class action lawsuit filed by drivers delivering its products, specifically, drivers delivering goods within two hours of being ordered through Amazon’s “Prime Now” app.

According to the lawsuit, the drivers have been classified by Amazon and the companies providing services to Amazon as independent contractors. Ok—who doesn’t know this one by chapter and verse….Predictably, the drivers allege that have been misclassified.

According to their lawsuit, they deliver tens of thousands of items to Amazon’s Prime Now customers based on orders placed on Amazon’s Prime Now mobile app, which is aimed at what is referred to as the “instant gratification market.” But everything has its price.

So, to cut to the chase, the Amazon Prime driver complaint, filed October 27, 2015, in Los Angeles County Superior Court names Amazon.com, Inc., Scoobeez Inc., and ABT Holdings, Inc. as defendants. The four named plaintiffs asserts that they and others similarly situated to them were hired by Scoobeez, a courier company operated by ABT Holdings, to work exclusively for Amazon.com’s Prime Now two-hour delivery service in Orange County, California.

The specific allegations are that the app suggests a $5.00 tip for drivers (which they claim they have not received in whole or in part); that the drivers receive multiple days of training in making Amazon Prime Now deliveries; that they are scheduled to work fixed shifts, arrive at a designated warehouse ahead of the shift time and check in with a dispatcher; that they are sent home if there is not enough work for them; that they cannot reject work assignments or request particular geographical areas; that they must follow specific rules or instructions and are subject to discipline or termination if they do not; that they are required to deliver packages in a set sequence determined by the defendants; that the Prime Now app generates routes and directions; that they cannot deliver packages either two minutes too early or too late; that they are required to ask customers to fill out customer surveys; that the rates are unilaterally determined by the defendants, who reserve the right to change the compensation terms at any time; and that the delivery drivers are required to use their own vehicles and pay for their own vehicle and transportation expenses.

The plaintiffs claim violation of an array of state laws governing employees, including those requiring the payment of minimum wages, overtime, reporting pay, expense reimbursement, and meal periods, all of which they claim entitlement to because they are allegedly employees and not actually independent contractors.

The case is Truong v. Amazon.com, Inc., No. BC598993 (Cal. Sup. Ct. Los Angeles County, Oct. 27, 2015). 

Top Settlements

Anthem Blue Cross caught with their pants down… has agreed to an $8.3 million settlement ending a bad faith insurance class action. The settlement could affect some 50,000 California customers.

The Anthem Blue Cross settlement will resolve two lawsuits that were filed by Anthem policy holders in 2011, alleging the state’s largest for-profit health insurer increased annual deductibles and other yearly out-of-pocket costs on individual policies in the middle of the year, which was a breach of contract and represented unfair business practices.

The lawsuit states that, in the case of plaintiff Dave Jacobson, the rate hikes amounted to a yearly out-of-pocket maximum increase from $5,000 to $5,850. His annual prescription drug deductible increased to $275 from $250.

According to the terms of the settlement, Anthem Blue Cross will mail notices to affected customers and to post information about the agreement on a public website. Only consumers affected by the midyear policy changes will receive settlement checks, but all Californians enrolled in individual Anthem health plans will be subject to the agreement that prevents such cost increases in the future.

Checks will be mailed in December to 50,000 consumers. The average amount will be $167. The four named plaintiffs in the court case will receive an additional $10,000, subject to court approval. So, watch the mail folks.

A fair shake for Pharmacists… in the guise of a $7.46 million settlement recently agreed in an unpaid overtime lawsuit pending against CVS Pharmacy. The settlement will end claims made in three separate but related class action lawsuits that CVS failed to pay overtime wages; failed to provide timely, accurate, itemized wage statements; failed to pay earned wages upon discharge; conversion; and unlawful and/or unfair business practices in violation of California labor law.

The CVS lawsuit asserts that pharmacists who work more than six days in a row are entitled to overtime pay for work beyond the sixth day, regardless of how CVS defines its work week.

The CVS settlement effects all persons who are or were employed by CVS as non-exempt pharmacists in Regions 54, 65 and/or 74 in the State of California, and who worked more than six consecutive days of work without overtime pay from October 2, 2009 through April 30, 2015 (Connell, Region 65), October 4, 2009 through April 30, 2015 (Paksy, Region 54), and October 29, 2009 through April 30, 2015 (Bystrom, Region 75).

A separate settlement was reached in a similar class action lawsuit (Rimanpreet Uppal v. CVS Pharmacy Inc.) involving California’s Region 73.

Class Members will be paid based on the number of “Compensable Workweeks” in which they worked more than six consecutive days without overtime pay.

Despite denying the allegations, CVS agreed to settle the class action lawsuits to avoid the risk and expense of proceeding to trial. KA-Ching… better to pay your staff… right? Now that’s money well spent. 

Ok – That’s a wrap folks… See you at the Bar!

Week Adjourned: 10.23.15 – Forever 21, Publix, Duke Energy

forever 21Top Class Action Lawsuits

Don’t make any plans! We might need you to work…or not. Forever 21 Retail Inc. is the latest retailer to get hit with an employment class action lawsuit over the practice of using on-call shifts. This practice results in failure to compensate workers who report for work but ultimately aren’t put to work. Nice one.

Former Forever 21 sales clerk, Raalon Kennedy, claims in the lawsuit, that the clothing retailer doesn’t pay its employees reporting time pay, which they are entitled to if they report to work but aren’t put to work or work less than half a scheduled day’s work. In the complaint, Kennedy calls this practice the latest form of wage theft.

“On-call shifts, like regular shifts, also have a designated beginning time and quitting time. Forever 21 informs its employees to consider an on-call shift a definite thing until they are actually told they do not need to come in,” the lawsuit states. “In reality, these on-call shifts are no different than regular shifts, and Forever 21 has misclassified them in order to avoid paying reporting time in accordance with applicable law.”

According to the Forever 21 lawsuit, Kennedy worked as a sales clerk at a Southern California Forever 21 store, where he was frequently scheduled to work on-call shifts, both after his regularly scheduled shift and on days when he otherwise wasn’t required to work.

Under California labor law, nonexempt employees must be paid reporting time pay when they are required to report to work but aren’t put to work or are only paid less than half of their scheduled day’s work. Kennedy states that Forever 21 never compensated him with reporting time pay.

The complaint asserts that these on-call shifts take a toll on employees, especially those in low-wage sectors, making it difficult for employees to obtain other employment or plan activities on days they’re scheduled for on-call shifts.

The complaint alleges failure to pay reporting time pay, failure to pay all wages earned at termination, failure to provide accurate wage statements and unfair business practices and asks for the payment of unpaid wages as well as compensatory and economic damages and attorneys’ fees and costs, among other claims for relief.

The case is Kennedy v. Forever 21 Retail Inc. et al., case number BC597806, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles. Go get ‘em!!

Publix Supermarkets outed for making robocalls… Yup—‘fraid so. They got hit with a Telephone Consumer protection Act (TCPA) lawsuit this week that claims the company made numerous auto-dialed phone calls to lead plaintiff Eric Snover, telling him to pick up a prescription when he had never used Publix’s pharmacy services.

In the Publix robocall lawsuit, Snover contends he received 13 calls made my robodialers, all of which had a recorded voice telling him that his prescription was ready for pick up at a Destin, Florida, Publix store. However, Snover claims that he doesn’t live in that town, that he has never used a Publix pharmacy, and he has never given the grocery chain his cellphone number.

Additionally, the lawsuit claims that the recording provides no opportunity to opt out of the robocalls or to ask Publix to stop calling them.

Wishing to end the unsolicited calls, Snover contacted Publix three times, according to the lawsuit, each time an employee assured him that the calls would stop. However, the calls continued until November 2014, the complaint states.

In-store pharmacies are present in nearly 80 percent of Publix’s 1,100 stores in the South and comprise a principal part of its business, the complaint states. “In an effort to increase their bottom line and garner market share in the pharmacy services industry, defendant engaged in a systemic marketing campaign involving artificial or prerecorded voice calls … to consumers’ cellular telephones to inform them that prescriptions were ready for pickup,” the lawsuit states.

“However, defendant didn’t obtain written express consent for those prescription service-related calls.” Instead, Publix queried its database of cellphone numbers for consumers who may have previously filled prescriptions at its pharmacies and used an autodialer to call them, the lawsuit states.

Many of these consumers don’t use Publix’s prescription services and did not have any prescriptions to pick up a Publix pharmacy, Snover contends. “As a result, many consumers were automatically opted in to Publix’s autodial program, resulting in an obligation to affirmatively opt out in order to avoid repeated, unsolicited autodialed calls.” Snover claims that Publix ignored requests by consumers to stop the allegedly illicit calls.

Snover seeks to represent a national class of consumers whom Publix used an autodialer to call their cellphones about a pharmacy service since October 2011, according to the complaint.

Each member of the proposed class would be entitled to $500 for every negligently placed call or $1,500 for each call placed in knowing violation of the TCPA, Snover said. His suit also seeks injunctive relief.

Snover is represented by Jonathan Betten Cohen of Morgan & Morgan PA. The case is Snover v. Publix Super Markets Inc., case number 8:15-cv-02434, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Top Settlements 

Duke Energy Outduked? Ok—here’s a biggy. Albeit preliminary—the settlement on the table is a suggested $80.9 million. If approved, it will end an antitrust class action lawsuit pending against Duke Energy Corp.

Short version on the lawsuit: filed on Ohio federal court, the suit claimed Duke gave corporate customers a competitive advantage via illegal rebates in exchange for their support of a rate stabilization plan the company was trying to pass through the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

According to information issued by Duke, the terms of the settlement provide for residential and non-residential customers, from January 2005 to December 2008, to share in $25 million, while $8 million will be used to fund energy-related programs to benefit Duke Energy Ohio customers. The remaining $23 million is pay legal fees and other expenses.

If approved, the Duke Energy settlement would end 8 years of litigation. The lawsuit was brought by Duke Energy residential customer Anthony Williams, non-residential customer BGR Inc. and others accusing the company of using various unlawful schemes to funnel tens of millions of dollars in rebates to its largest corporate customers.

The case is Anthony Williams et al. v. Duke Energy Corp. et al., case number 1:08-cv-00046, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. 

Ok! That’s a wrap folks…See you at the Bar!

Week Adjourned: 10.16.15 – Gerber, CRTs, Equal Pay

Gerber Good StartTop Class Action Lawsuits

This lawsuit’s off to a good start! Gerber Good Start Gentle infant Formula got hit with a consumer fraud class action this week, filed by Plaintiff, Oula Zakaria who alleges that Gerber engaged in unfair business practices regarding the marketing of the baby food. Specifically, the lawsuit claims a pattern of “deceit and unfair business practices by Gerber Products Co. (“Defendant”) in the marketing and sale of Good Start Gentle, a prominent line of infant formula produced, distributed, marketed, and sold by Defendant made from partially hydrolyzed whey protein”.

In the Gerber lawsuit, Zakaria alleges that Gerber claimed (a) Good Start Gentle was the “first and only” formula whose consumption reduced the risk of infants developing allergies; (b) that consumption of Good Start Gentle reduced the risk of developing infant atopic dermatitis, an inflammatory skin disorder; (c) that Good Start Gentle was the “first and only” formula endorsed by the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) to reduce the risk of developing allergies; and (d) using the FDA term of art “Qualified Health Claim” to convey that Good Start Gentle received FDA approval for the health claims advertised and was fit for a particular purpose when, in actuality, the term “Qualified Health Claim” means that the FDA did not grant approval for the use of a non-qualified health claim and that the scientific support for the claim is limited or lacking (at best).

In October 2014, the FDA issued Defendant a warning letter listing a litany of misrepresentations and falsehoods in the promotion of Good Start Gentle that violated federal law and related regulations. Defendant was instructed by the FDA to cease its deceitful practices or face potential legal action by the FDA.

Further, in October 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) brought the lawsuit against Defendant seeking to enjoin its deceptive practices in relation to the marketing and sale of Good Start Gentle, specifically citing Defendant’s false or misleading claim “that feeding Gerber Good Start Gentle formula to infants with a family history of allergies prevents or reduces the risk that they will develop allergies” and the false or misleading claim “that Gerber Good Start Gentle formula qualified for or received approval for a health claim from the Food and Drug Administration.”

Zakaria estimates that she purchased one container of Good Start Gentle per week from October 2013 to November 2014, from stores in Porter Ranch, California. Some of the containers of Good Start Gentle purchased by Plaintiff had a label that read, “1st & Only Routine Formula to Reduce Risk of Developing Allergies, see label inside.” But for Defendant’s allegedly false and misleading representations, Plaintiff alleges that she would not have made these purchases.

Plaintiff, on behalf of herself and other similarly situated consumers, brings this consumer protection action against Defendant based on its course of unlawful conduct. Plaintiff alleges violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law, California False Advertising Law, the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, as well as Breach of Express Warranty, Breach of the Implied Warranty of Merchantability, and other claims.

Top Settlements

Cathode Ray Tubes—ever heard of them? Well if you own one—bought one sometime between 1999 and 2007—you may be interested to learn about a staggering $576.75 million settlement in a price-fixing class action lawsuit pending against the makers of Cathode Ray Tubes, (CRTs). These devices were sold separately or as the main component in TVs and computer monitors.

The CRT settlement includes CRTs and CRT Products purchased for private use and not for resale. Purchases made directly from a defendant or alleged co-conspirator are not included.

The lawsuit claims that the Defendants fixed the prices of CRTs causing consumers to pay more for CRTs and products containing CRTs, such as TVs and computer monitors (collectively “CRT Products”). The Defendants deny Plaintiffs’ allegations. The court granted preliminary approval of the new Settlements on July 9, 2015.

Here’s the need to know: Individuals and businesses qualify for money from this settlement if they purchased a CRT or product containing a CRT, such as a TV or computer monitor, in the following states for their own use and not resale:

Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin or the District of Columbia between March 1, 1995 and November 25, 2007
Hawaii between June 25, 2002 and November 25, 2007
Nebraska between July 20, 2002 and November 25, 2007
Nevada between February 4, 1999 and November 25, 2007

To be eligible to make a claim, you must have purchased the CRT televisions, monitors or other CRT Products “indirectly”, meaning that you purchased the products from someone other than the defendant manufacturers or alleged co-conspirators. Purchases made directly from a defendant or alleged co-conspirator are not included. Persons or businesses who purchased directly from a defendant manufacturer or alleged co-conspirator should visit http://www.crtdirectpurchaserantitrustsettlement.com/ for additional information.

Purchases of Sony® branded televisions and monitors are NOT eligible to be included in the CRT indirect purchaser case. All other brands of CRT televisions and monitors are eligible.

Hey, hey, hooray for Equal Pay! A victory for the female employees at Publicis Groupe’s MSL Group? Well, they reached a $3 million settlement in a gender discrimination class action lawsuit this week. The lawsuit, filed in February 2011, had originally asked for $100 million in damages. You do the math.

According to the equal pay lawsuit, lead plaintiff Ms. Monique da Silva Moore and other female public relations employees in the U.S. claimed they were denied equal pay, promotion and other employment opportunities by Publicis and its PR group, MSLGroup. Ms. da Silva Moore, a former global healthcare director for MSLGroup, had worked for the PR agency for 13 years.

Jim Tsokanos, MSLGroup’s U.S. president at the time, stepped down over a year after the claims were made. The lawsuit described his behavior, specifically, the suit stated that despite ongoing inappropriate conduct and complaints, Tsokanos was promoted to Executive Vice President and Managing Director of the Company’s largest office in New York and ultimately to President of the Americas. In his new role, Tsokanos continues to make comments about the appearance of female employees often discussing their “looks” in front of other employees and during meetings. He is also known to take young female employees out for drinks frequently. Human Resources has never taken any action to end President Tsokanos’ ongoing inappropriate conduct. So the next logical step was a lawsuit, and I’m guessing this win has to feel pretty good.

Ok—that’s it for this week folks—see you at the bar!

Week Adjourned: 10.9.15 – Subaru, Scottrade, LinkedIn

SubaruTop Class Action Lawsuits

Subaru Flipping You One? Just when you though it might be safe to get back into your car…guess what? Not if you own a 2006 Subaru B9 Tribeca, apparently. A defective automobile class action lawsuit has been filed against Subaru of America Inc, alleging certain of its vehicles have a design defect that causes the hood to fly open when the affected vehicles are traveling at high speed. This can result in cracked windshields and danger to the drivers, in addition to diminishing the value of the vehicles.

Filed by Sharion Hadley, the Subaru complaint asserts that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has 17 complaints about the hood of the 2006 Subaru B9 Tribeca unlocking and smashing the windshield while being driven. However, Hadley claims Subaru won’t do anything to fix the alleged defect.

“Despite longstanding knowledge of the defect through public complaints and internal testing, Subaru has failed to take responsibility for the problem, refusing to issue a recall and denying consumer requests to pay for necessary repairs occasioned by the defect,” the complaint states.

In the complaint, Hadley states that the hood of her vehicle flew open in May while she was driving at approximately 65 miles per hour, cracking her windshield and dislodging the rear view mirror. She goes on to state that she was unable to see the road because of the broken hood. She did manage to navigate the car to the side of the road, where she was helped by passing drivers.

According to the lawsuit, Hadley contacted Subaru about the accident, but the automaker refused to take responsibility for the alleged defect, wouldn’t compensate her for the cost of repairs and refused to even look at the vehicle.

The lawsuit contends that this incident is not isolated. While numerous consumers have complained online about the same alleged defect, the NHTSA has 17 complaints about the 2006 B9 Tribeca describing a similar experience to that which Hadley experienced.

“It is well known that car manufacturers, in general, and Subaru in particular, closely monitor NHTSA complaints, so there can be no doubt that Subaru has long known of this issue from the NHTSA website,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit accuses Subaru of actively concealing the alleged defect, and of failing to disclose that the alleged defect would diminish the value of the vehicle.

The lawsuit seeks certification of a national and Pennsylvania class of drivers who bought or leased the 2006 Subaru B9 Tribeca. She said at least 18,000 of the class vehicles were sold by Subaru.

The complaint asserts claims for violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, breach of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, breach of express warranty and common law fraud, among others.

The case is Hadley v. Subaru of America Inc., case number 1:15-cv-07210, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

It Really is Groundhog Day! Another data breach class action lawsuit has been filed this week—who’s counting anymore? This one, against the discount brokerage house Scottrade Inc, alleging the company failed to take adequate action to protect its customer’s data. Scottrade announced last week that between late 2013 and early 2014 approximately 4.6 million users had their personal information, possibly including their Social Security numbers, targeted in a data breach.

Filed by plaintiff Stephen Hine, the lawsuit states that Scottrade was negligent in failing to exercise reasonable security precautions and failing to comply with industry standards for storing confidential and private personal information. Further, the lawsuit alleges Scottrade’s email notification to customers affected by the breach was “woefully inadequate and vague,” given that their information might be sold on the black market or used in stock scams and other financial frauds.

Specifically, the lawsuit states, “Scottrade’s actions and/or omissions occurred despite prior warnings, including prior incursions of their network by third parties, who conducted fraudulent stock trades using Scottrade’s customer’s accounts, and even fines from government agencies concerning its system’s security procedures and oversight.” Seriously, how can anyone still be caught with their digital trouser down anymore?

The plaintiff contends that had Scottrade heeded warnings and taken necessary precautions, the data breach could have been prevented or, at a minimum, predicted it much sooner and reduced the harm to its customers.

In its announcement, Scottrade stated that those responsible for the attack appeared to have targeted names and mailing addresses, but it couldn’t rule out the possibility that email addresses and other “sensitive data” had been stolen.

The lawsuit goes on to allege that many of the customers affected won’t receive email notifications from Scottrade as they have changed email addresses or used a different email address. Furthermore, the emails sent are materially misleading and don’t fully disclose the scope of the threat to Scottrade’s customers, the lawsuit states.

“The database accessed, however, contains, among other things, Social Security numbers, email addresses and other ‘sensitive data’ (which is not defined in the email),” the complaint states. “It is highly unlikely that the hackers, having access to the above information, would only take the affected customer’s name and email address.”

According to the complaint, as a financial institution and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission registered broker dealer, Scottrade had a “special duty” to exercise reasonable care to protect and secure the personal and financial information of its customers.

“Scottrade should have known to take precaution to secure its customers’ data, given its special duty, especially in light of the recent data breaches affecting numerous retailers and financial institutions, as well as from prior direct breaches of its secured networks,” the complaint states. You think ?

The case is Hine v. Scottrade Inc., case number 3:15-cv-02213, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

Top Settlements

LinkedIn will pay to play… The social media platform has agreed  to pony up $13 million in a settlement, that could end a Telephone Consumer protection Act (TCPA) class action lawsuit they’re facing over spamming its members.

Specifically, the LinkedIn lawsuit targeted LinkedIn’s ‘Add Connections’, a service that allowed members to import contacts from their email accounts. LinkedIn then sent those contacts an email, according to court documents.

While the court found in favor of the plaintiffs, stating that members did not consent to LinkedIn sending reminder emails to recipients of pending invitations, the company denies any wrongdoing.

Under the terms of the proposed settlement, people who signed up for LinkedIn between September 17, 2011, and October 31, 2014, can submit a claim, this includes people who are no longer members.

The payment amount for members of approved claims will depend upon how many claims are submitted but could range from $10 to $1,500. To learn more about the settlement, visit: http://www.addconnectionssettlement.com. Check it out!!

Ok—that’s it for this week folks—see you at the bar! And Happy Columbus Day!

Week Adjourned: 10.2.15 – VRBO, Hyatt Hotels, Vitaminwater

VRBO logoTop Class Action Lawsuits

Another week…another data breach lawsuit. This one is filed against payment processor Yapstone, the company that handles the money for Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO). Most seriously disturbing.

The class action was filed by a customer in New Jersey who claims the company is negligent and in breach of contract because it failed to protect customer data from a possible breach. In the VRBO complaint, Plaintiff, Jonathan Koles alleges that he was notified by letter by YapStone on September 11 that his “[e]mail and [b]ank [a]ccount were potentially exposed” in a possible breach that happened sometime between July 2014 and August 2015. According to the letter, Yapstone had first learned of the potential hack on August 4th.

Koles claims that YapStone Inc, failed to take reasonable measures to protect its customers’ personal information, promptly notify them of the possible breach and specify exactly what information may have been compromised.

According to the lawsuit, “As a result of Defendant’s ongoing failure to notify consumers regarding what type of [personally identifiable information] has been compromised, consumers are unable to take the necessary precautions to mitigate their damages by preventing future fraud.”

As a result of the data breach, Koles now pays $29.99 a month for identity protection services, has had to cancel credit cards and faces “imminent danger” that his personal information could be used for fraudulent purposes, the lawsuit states.

Because VRBO customers were required to accept payments online and provide their bank account information, YapStone breached an implied contract with customers in failing to safeguard their financial information, the complaint adds. In addition to his claims of negligence, breach of contract and unjust enrichment, Koles filed claims for violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law and the state’s Data Breach Law on behalf of a nationwide class. The suit also raises claims for violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and the New Jersey Data Breach Act on behalf of Garden State consumers.

Koles asked the court to order YapStone to adopt “appropriate methods and policies” for consumer data collection and disclosure of personal information, pay for three years of credit card monitoring services and notify customers of the breach. He also seeks to recover damages, including actual, compensatory and statutory damages, as well as equitable relief, restitution, disgorgement, costs and attorneys’ fees.

The case is Jonathan Koles v. YapStone Inc., case number 3:15-cv-04429, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Hyatt feasting on ill-gotten gains? Maybe…Hyatt Hotels was hit with an unpaid wages and overtime class action lawsuit this week, alleging the global hotel chain fails to properly pay its banquet servers their tips and withholds overtime pay.

Filed by Nancy Livi, the Hyatt lawsuit is brought on behalf of current and former employees of Hyatt-branded hotels in Pennsylvania. Specifically, the complaint alleges Hyatt Hotels Corp. and its affiliates illegally diverts servers tips and refuses to pay overtime when certain employees have worked in excess of 40 hours per work week.

These actions, the lawsuit asserts, violate various laws including the Fair Labor Standards Act. The plaintiffs claims they have been seriously harmed by the company’s actions.

According to the lawsuit, customers who use the hotel for the special events at which banquet servers work are charged a set fee in addition to the charges for their events. These fees are regularly used to pay banquet servers a tip, forming part of their compensation. That fee, which is referred to as both a gratuity fee and service charge in the complaint, is divided amongst the banquet servers, with a portion of the fee being kept by the hotel, for the hotel.

The complaint alleges that Hyatt has refused to divulge information related to how much of the fee it keeps, despite requests by employees for information regarding the pay practices and lack of transparency.

According to the lawsuit, the negligible amount of gratuity banquet servers receive is not enough to be considered a tip for purposes of complying with the FLSA’s minimum wage provisions. In addition, the suit alleges that Hyatt, in its Pennsylvania hotels at least, has refused to pay overtime, even when banquet servers have worked over 40 hours in a week. “Defendants have been aware of the hours worked by the class members but have failed to pay the class members the full amount of wages to which they are entitled for this work time,” the complaint states.

The Hyatt lawsuit seeks class certification, as well as to recover unpaid tips and overtime wages, plus all available relief. According to the complaint, the class likely contains at least 40 members. Nancy Livi, et al v. Hyatt Hotels Corp., et al, case number 2:15-cv-05371 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Top Settlements

Ok—if it sounds too good to be true….remember Vitaminwater? (yes—it’s a new noun apparently.) Well, Coke just reached a $2.7 million settlement to settle the Vitaminwater consumer fraud class action. The lawsuit alleges the company falsely marketed the sugar content of the drink. Ya think?

FYI—the lawsuit was filed six years ago. Now that’s dragging it through the courts…

Under the terms of the Vitaminwater settlement, Coca-Cola Co, and Energy Brands Inc. will advertise on the labels that the products contain sweeteners. Further, they will place the words “with sweeteners” on two panels of the product’s labeling. Additionally, the beverage makers must state the amount of calories per bottle of the product on the product’s main display panel and include the statement, “excellent source [of certain nutrients,]” on the product’s labeling.

If approved, the settlement also cites a number of statements the defendants can no longer use to market Vitaminwater, including “vitamins + water = all you need” and “made for the center for responsible hydration,” according to the motion.

The parties are also seeking to certify two settlement subclasses which are all New York residents who purchased Vitaminwater in New York at any time from Janauary 20, 2003 to the notice date and all California residents who purchased Vitaminwater in California at any time from Jan. 15, 2015 to the notice date.

According to the terms of the agreement, each of the class representatives (aka, lead plaintiffs) will be awarded $5,000.

The cases are Batsheva Ackerman et al. v. Coca-Cola Co. et al., case number 1:11-md-02215, and Juliana Ford v. The Coca-Cola Co. et al., case number 1:09-cv-00395, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Ok—That’s a wrap folks… See you at the Bar!