Week Adjourned: 10.24.14 – Abercrombie & Fitch, Verizon, CVS Caremark

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements–top stories include Abercrombie & Fitch, Verizon, and CVS Caremark

Abercrombie adTop Class Action Lawsuits 

Abercrummy & Fitch…This week’s wage and hour class action involves Abercrombie & Fitch—no stranger to employment lawsuits—over allegations of violations of California labor law and state and federal overtime law. The lawsuit claims the clothing retailer misclassifies its sales and stockroom associates as exempt from overtime wages even though they regularly work more than 40 hours in a week and are often “on call” during other shifts. You’d think they’d know the drill on this stuff by now…

The lawsuit alleges hourly workers at the company’s Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister stores often work overtime hours and are scheduled for certain “call-in” shifts, during which the employees are required to call the store an hour before a shift begins to see if the stores need them to work. The employees must keep the call-in hours open but are not compensated if the stores don’t need them to report for work.

Filed by lead plaintiff Samantha Jones, the complaint states she was employed by the national clothing retailer from December 2005 through to January 2014 in its namesake Hollister stores. She was employed as a brand representative, model, a term used to refer to hourly associates on the sales floor and impact team member, an hourly associate working in the back of the store and eventually was promoted to a manager position.

Jones alleges that she was classified as a non-exempt employee during the entire period of her employment with the defendant that she was paid on an hourly basis and entitled to overtime wage. However, the defendant has a “uniform policy and practice” of failing to compensate employees for all hours worked.

Jones further claims that Abercrombie failed to keep accurate records and pay Jones and the putative class members for their hours worked, including failing to record on-call hours and the overtime hours generated by the on-call shifts.

Specifically, the complaint states: “Defendants, as a matter of corporate policy, practice and procedure, intentionally, knowingly and systematically failed to compensate plaintiff and the class members for all hours worked (for on-call time), and undercompensated them for overtime worked that should have been paid at overtime rates had the on-call time been paid for.”

The lawsuit seeks to represent a nationwide Fair Labor Standards Act class, a California class and a California subclass, composed of individuals who were classified as nonexempt, paid on an hourly basis and scheduled for call-in shifts.

The suit is Jones v. Abercrombie & Fitch Trading Company, case number 3:14-cv-04631, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. 

Top Settlements

Verizon to Pay Unpaid Overtime—to the tune of $15 million, according to a  settlement agreement reached this week. The agreement will end a wage and hour class action lawsuit brought against Verizon California Inc alleging violations of California labor law. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed Verizon issued inaccurate wage statements that omitted crucial information making it impossible for the workers to determine whether they had been paid properly.

In addition to approving the Verizon settlement motion, Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff certified the proposed settlement class, which consists of employees paid biweekly in California who received itemized income statements from Verizon between April 1, 2009 and May 2011.

Filed by former Verizon field technician Hector Banda in April 2010, the lawsuit alleges Verizon violated the California Labor Code and the code’s Private Attorney General Act by not listing the pay period beginning date, applicable hourly rates and number of hours worked at each rate on the wage statements it issued to employees. A similar complaint was filed by Scott Cerkoney three months after the first lawsuit and the cases were subsequently consolidated in 2011.

According to the complaint, Verizon allegedly issued some 223,000 wage statements to its 6,800 employees during the class period.

The cases are Hector Banda et al. v. Verizon California Inc. et al., case number BC434587, and Scott Cerkoney et al. v. Verizon California Inc. et al., case number BC442358, both in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.

And CVS Caremark, too! Yet another California labor law and unpaid overtime class action settlement to report this week—this one a final $2.8 million settlement for CVS Caremark pharmacists, who alleged violations of California labor law. A California judge approved the settlement of class claims that the pharmacy chain improperly forced hundreds of Southern California pharmacists to work seven days straight without overtime. This is the first settlement of six such lawsuits pending against the retailer alleging unpaid overtime.

The CVS Caremark settlement will provide damages to 627 CVS pharmacists who are or were employed in CVS’ “Region 72,” the Southern California area that is one of CVS’ six regions in that state. The settlement represents roughly 70 percent of plaintiffs’ estimation of CVS’ total potential liability.

Named plaintiff Connie Meneses filed suit in August 2012, alleging CVS was improperly forcing its pharmacists to work seven days in a row without paying overtime for the seventh, in violation of a state law that mandates pharmacists be given a day off after six days of work.

The case is Connie Meneses et al. v. CVS Pharmacy Inc. et al., case number BC489739, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.

Hokee Dokee—Time to adjourn for the week. Have a fab weekend—See you at the bar!

Week Adjourned: 3.28.14 – Coca-Cola, Synovus, Abercrombie & Fitch

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements. Top stories include Coca-Cola, Synovus Bank and Abercrombie & Fitch.

.cokeTop Class Action Lawsuits

Coke is it! (Really?) Coca-Cola Company—the company that wants to teach the world to sing (or did)—and Coca-Cola Refreshments USA Inc. had better get their song sheets sorted out. They got hit with a consumer fraud class action lawsuit this week, over allegations they violated federal and state laws by fraudulently and negligently making claims on its two-liter bottles and other packages that its products have “no artificial flavors. No preservatives added. Since 1886.” Ok—who’s away with the Fairies here—no change since 1886?

According to the Coca-Cola lawsuit, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois case number: 1:14-cv-01914 “This statement, as well as the entire premise of the Pemberton campaign, was false and misleading…In fact, Coca-Cola contains phosphoric acid. Phosphoric acid is both an artificial flavoring and a chemical preservative.”

Filed by plaintiff Ronald Sowizrol, the lawsuit goes on to claim that Coca-Cola falsely represented that Coca-Cola is still made with the “original formula” devised by John Pemberton in 1886. “In fact, the composition of Coca-Cola has repeatedly changed over time,” the lawsuit states. “These changes have included, among other things, an increase in the amount of unhealthy ingredients like sugar and corn syrup and the addition of artificial ingredients like phosphoric acid.”

Sowizrol claims that Coca-Cola knowingly and intentionally sold misbranded products to consumers with the intent to deceive. He alleges he purchased Coke, Diet Coke, Caffeine Free Coke and Sprite in 2-liter bottles, 20-ounce bottles and individual and various packages of 12-ounce cans and that all related containers failed to state that any ingredients are used as artificial flavoring or as a chemical preservative. Had he known, he claims he would not have purchased Coca-Cola products.

Sowizrol claims the defendants have violated the Illinois Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act by misbranding Coca-Cola products, and that Coca-Cola has been unjustly enriched by its unlawful and deceptive actions.

Better get in line to sign up for this one.

Top Settlements

Another Bank Caught with its Hand in the Cookie Jar—or more specifically its customers’ bank accounts. This time its Synovus’ turn—and for their sins they will likely have to pony up $24 million—as settlement in the overdraft fees class action lawsuit it’s facing.

Filed in July 2010, the Synovus lawsuit covers the period between July 10, 2004, and February 3, 2014, and alleges Synovus banks charged excessive overdraft fees on debit-card purchases or ATM cash withdrawals using debit cards.

According to court documents, “A lawsuit filed by customers of Synovus Bank … claims that the fees Synovus charged in connection with overdrafts arising from a (point of sale) or ATM debit card transaction constitutes interest, and as a result, Synovus has violated Georgia’s usury laws, committed conversion and is liable to plaintiffs for money had and received.”

Synovus said the settlement agreement has been made “without admitting liability,” with current and former Georgia resident bank customers eligible to participate if they have been charged an overdraft fee over that nearly 10-year period. Over a dozen Synovus divisions are included in the settlement including Columbus Bank and Trust.

The proposed settlement has been preliminarily approved by the court, according to the Synovus notice to customers. A fairness hearing will take place May 20.

A&F to Pay up…Abercrombie & Fitch, no stranger to lawsuits, reached a preliminary $575,000 settlement this week, potentially ending an unpaid overtime class action lawsuit pending against it in Pennsylvania. The lawsuit, filed by lead plaintiff Paul Oliver in November 2012, alleged the clothing retailer had violated the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act with its overtime wage policy.

This week, a state judge in Pennsylvania granted the approval, creating a class of 702 plaintiffs, consisting of all eligible A&F employees in that state between November 2009 and the beginning of January 2014.

According to Pennsylvania state law, employees are entitled to overtime wages that are at least 1.5 times the regular rate. Oliver filed the employment class action against Abercrombie alleging that the retailer, which operates at least 44 stores in the state, relies on an overtime calculation that violated the PMWA. Under a fluctuating work week, which is the model Abercrombie used, non-exempt employees get paid a fixed amount per week and receive half their hourly wage for each hour of overtime. This system is allowed under the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA), but is, Oliver alleged, in violation of state employment law.

Under the terms of the settlement, Oliver will receive $7,500 for bringing the lawsuit and acting as lead plaintiff. “Based on plaintiff’s counsel’s review and analysis of the relevant payroll data, the $403,750.00 in available class member payouts will enable each participating class member to recover (free and clear of attorneys’ fees) over 50 percent of his/her alleged unpaid overtime during the class period,” according to the settlement.

The case is Oliver v. Abercrombie & Fitch Co., case number 121102571 in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.

Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. See you at the bar!