Week Adjourned: 5.20.11

Top Class Actions

AXA axing pay? Pay—overtime, regular time, anytime in fact that requires payment is a recurring theme in class action lawsuits. This week, thousands of commissioned US employees at global financial giant AXA filed a potential class action against the company alleging they worked as many as 60 hours a week, but weren’t paid minimum wage or overtime.  

Because this is apparently a long-running problem—the suit alleged the violations go back as far as 2005 —the potential class could consist of more than 1,000 current and former employees: from the company’s financial product marketers and financial product marketer trainees to cold callers, according to the suit.

Employees of the company were paid a $24,000 base salary plus a percentage share of any commissions earned by licensed brokers, if they were successful in obtaining new accounts for the brokers, according to court papers. So, maybe we’ll pay you—but you can put in the hours anyway? Am I reading this correctly? Failure to pay overtime violates the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act, (FLSA) which covers employees paid commissions.

One employee, Bennet Marcus, of New York City, worked from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. five days a week and was unpaid during his training, according to the suit. He worked for AXA from October 2010 through February 2011 as a trainee and cold caller. Where’s Charles Dickens when we need him?

FYI—AXA is one of the world’s largest insurance companies with 2010 revenues of 91 billion Euros—$129 billion. In case you’re having trouble calling the company to mind—their popular TV commercials feature a 900-pound gorilla–that’s him above. No small irony there.

The suit, which requests a jury trial, seeks unspecified back wages and overtime, damages, interest, attorney fees and costs. In addition to the claims under federal law, the plaintiffs also are seeking damages for underpayment of wages under New York State law for AXA’s workers in New York. 

Top Settlements

From unpaid overtime to retirement…it’s all about employees. This week a federal judge approved a $30 million settlement ending a 5-year old ERISA class-action filed against Duke Energy.

The lawsuit, brought by 20,000 class members who worked for Duke Energy Corp, alleged the company broke federal law when it changed its retirement plan. Now why would they want to do that?

According to the Greenville News, Duke workers said the Charlotte, N.C., company violated the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 in how it administered and calculated benefits under its retirement cash balance plan. A penny saved is a penny earned—not a penny pinched. 

UMB made the most of his weekend? UMB Financial Corp, has agreed to pony up $7.8 million in settlement monies, potentially ending the class action lawsuit brought against it in April 2010. The suit alleged that UMB Bank, a subsidiary of UMB Financial Corp, unfairly charged overdraft fees by treating pending deposits differently than pending withdrawals, thereby rearranging withdrawals to maximize overdraft fees. 

By way of example, David Johnson who filed the suit, claims that UMB charged him 17 overdraft fees, each in the amount of $36, over a single weekend. This included a $36 overdraft fee on a eighty-five cent purchase. UMB then charged Johnson additional overdraft fees and negative balance fees after these 17 fees depleted the hundreds of dollars of available funds in his account.

Nice! That’s certainly putting your customers’ needs first.

The settlement, subject to approval by Jackson County Circuit Court, includes no admission of wrongdoing. Of course it doesn’t. But money talks. 

That’s enough good news for one week. See you at the bar.

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