Week Adjourned: 7.30.11

Top Class Actions

Guaranteed Rate but Not Guaranteed Pay? That’s the story according to loan officers who worked for Guaranteed Rate Inc (GRI) and filed a wages and overtime  class action lawsuit against the mortgage lender this week.

The lawsuit alleges that GRI violated the rights of loan officers under the California Labor Code. That’s not very nice. The lawsuit alleges that the mortgage lender unlawfully paid loan officers below minimum wage, failed to compensate them for overtime hours worked and unjustly deducted expenses from previously earned wages, in violation of state wage and hour laws.

The complaint also claims that Guaranteed Rate incorrectly and intentionally classified loan officers as “outside salespeople,” making them exempt from some minimum wage and overtime regulations. Oh, that old chestnut. Never dies, does it.

Predictably, these outside sales employees claim to have spent more than 50 percent of their working time in their homes, which the employees argue is considered the employer’s places of business for purposes of the outside sales exemption from minimum and overtime wage laws.

The Guaranteed Rate Loan Officer class action lawsuit further alleges that the mortgage lender intentionally misclassified the loan officers as outside salespeople in order to avoid overtime and minimum wage requirements in violation of California employment laws. Specifically, the complaint states, the sales plaintiff was paid a “percentage of the profit obtained from the sale of the loan” and as a result “there were pay periods during which the Plaintiff received less than minimum wage or no compensation.” This compensation structure caused the loan officers to often work more than 8 hours per day and/or 5 days per week, which was allegedly known by the the Mortgage Loan Company.

According to California overtime laws, employers are required to pay employees overtime compensation for all hours worked in excess of eight hours in a single workday or forty hours in a workweek.

Top Settlements

Another Big Asbestos Settlement. A painter who was recently diagnosed with terminal asbestos mesothelioma caused by his exposure to asbestos-laiden products, was awarded $8.5 million in settlement of his asbestos lawsuit.

Bernard Steffen alleged that while working as a commercial painter and handyman he was exposed to products including stucco, molding and construction materials that contain asbestos. In his lawsuit he named as defendants the many manufacturers of the products, claiming that they knew of the dangers associated with their products yet failed to provide appropriate warnings.

The named defendants who went to court were cement maker CalPortland Co., molding material maker Cytec Engineered Materials and product supplier Union Carbide,all of whom denied the allegations. The jury found CalPortland and Union Carbide each 10 percent liable; remaining liability was divided amongst defendants who were no longer in the case at trial. Cytec was found not liable.

The storm around Katrina—will it ever end? Maybe. Preliminary approval of a $25 million settlement of a class action lawsuit against Tenet Healthcare Corp and subsidiaries has been granted by Orleans Parish Chief Judge Rosemary Ledet.

The lawsuit was filed following and as a result of Hurricane Katrina in which Tenet’s Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans was flooded, and dozens of people, patients and visitors, suffered as a result. A class of plaintiffs represents patients and family of patients who died in the hospital during the storm: 45 patients died during in the hospital during the storm, and doctors later admitted to having used euthanasia on patients, but no criminal charges were brought.

According to a report in the Louisana Record, the lawsuit states that approximately 187 patients and 800 visitors were in the hospital during and after the storm.

The lawsuit alleges that Tenet was liable for failing to adequately prepare the hospital for flooding before Katrina despite warnings from the hospital’s maintenance staff. The back-up power source in the hospital failed during the hurricane, as a result of flooding caused when the federally built levees broke, letting floodwater into the city. According to court documents, Tenet had argued that the dangerous environment at the hospital was a result of the failed levees and shoddy government response to the storm.

Tenet staff spent several days urgently seeking help from several federal agencies including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Coast Guard. The Tenet settlement releases Tenet and its partners from all liability.

OK. That’s it for this week. See you at the Bar.

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