Articles Posted in Class Action

By Shelby Krzastek

Former UBS Securities, LLC (UBS) employees Shannon Zoller and Alexander Beigelman claim that UBS forced laid-off employees to release claims against UBS to receive deferred compensation to which they were already entitled under their employment contract. The policy allegedly breaches UBS’s employee contract and violates New York and Illinois state labor laws, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act. On December 12, 2016, Zoller and Beigelman filed a putative class action against UBS in the U.S. District Court of Illinois.

The suit alleges that, in February 2013, numerous subsidiaries of UBS implemented a policy requiring any employee laid off during staff reductions to sign a waiver and release of claims in order to receive previously earned deferred compensation. According to Zoller and Beigelman, UBS hid the policy in an appendix to a document accompanying the employee contract.

Lev Craig

Last Friday, the parties submitted a settlement agreement for approval in Cote v. Walmart, a class action suit filed in federal court alleging that Walmart discriminated against gay Walmart employees by denying spousal health insurance coverage to same-sex married couples. The settlement would provide $7.5 million for current and former Walmart employees who could not obtain employer health insurance benefits for their same-sex spouse.

The suit was the first class action filed on behalf of gay employees after the Supreme Court’s June 2015 ruling extending marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges, according to the Boston-based LGBT legal advocacy group GLAD. Jackie Cote filed suit in the District of Massachusetts in July 2015, bringing claims against Walmart under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Law on behalf of Walmart employees who were married to a same-sex spouse and did not receive spousal health insurance benefits from Walmart between 2011 and 2013.

Lev Craig

On September 8, Wells Fargo was fined $100 million by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)—the largest fine in the agency’s history, according to its director—after an investigation found that bank employees had opened over two million bank accounts and credit cards without customers’ knowledge or consent between May 2011 and July 2015.

In addition to fines, Wells Fargo will be required to compensate any affected customers for fees incurred on the unauthorized accounts, such as annual fees or overdraft fees. On September 16, three plaintiffs in Utah filed suit against Wells Fargo, alleging theft and fraud and seeking class action status on behalf of up to a million customers who may have been affected.

Rose Asaf

Last Friday, we reported on Kerrie Campbell’s class action complaint against Chadbourne & Parke LLP.  Ms. Campbell, through her attorneys, Sanford Heisler, LLP, alleges that Chadbourne’s female partners “have been disparately underpaid, systematically shut out of Firm leadership, demoted, de-equitized and terminated.” Not all female partners in Chadbourne, however, agree with those allegations, which has prompted pushback against Ms. Campbell and Sanford Heisler, LLP.

In a letter addressed to David Sanford, a founding partner of Sanford Heisler, 14 female partners from Chadbourne expressed that Campbell’s complaint does not properly characterize their experiences with Chadbourne. In their attack, the women state that Sanford Heisler “did not make our voices heard…but rather have attempted to silence us.” The letter asserts that the complaint “makes a group of very accomplished, assertive and intelligent professional women look like they are victims unable to hold their own with their male colleagues.” The female partners also criticize Sanford Heisler for not reaching out to them before filing the suit.

Edgar M. Rivera, Esq.

On August 31, 2016, Kerrie Campbell—a seasoned trial lawyer and leading practitioner in the defamation and product disparagement, First Amendment rights and consumer product safety fields—filed a class action complaint in the Southern District of New York against Chadbourne & Parke LLP—an international firm of approximately 400 lawyers and tax advisors, including former New York Governor George Pataki, with over $285 million of annual revenue. Campbell claims that Chadbourne systematically discriminated against its female partners.

According to the complaint, in January 2014, Campbell joined Chadbourne as a lateral partner in the litigation department. Campbell brought in approximately 40 new matters for over 20 clients, generating over $5 million in total revenue for Chadbourne. Campbell’s productivity and revenue generation was consistent with the Chadbourne’s top performing male partner, yet her pay consistently was at the bottom ranks of male partners, who brought far less revenue to Chadbourne. Chadbourne opposed the gender-based pay and asked Chadbourne’s all-male five-member Management Committee, Managing Partner, and Head of the Litigation Department to address and rectify these issues. On February 19, 2016, Chadbourne’s Managing Partner, Andy Giaccia, and Head of the Litigation Department, Abbe Lowell, told Campbell that Campbell’s practice did not “fit” with the “strategic direction” of Chadbourne and that she must leave. To incentivize Campbell’s speedy ouster from Chadbourne, they slashed her pay.

By Owen Laird, Esq.

A recent decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has cast into doubt the validity of a range of lawsuits against Uber by its drivers.  The decision held that the mandatory arbitration provision in Uber’s contracts with its drivers is enforceable; as a result, Uber drivers may be foreclosed from bringing vast majority of their claims against Uber in court.

The ongoing legal saga between Uber and their drivers is one of the most significant labor disputes in the United States today.  Uber – the multi-billion-dollar taxi app – and its Silicon Valley startup brethren seek profitability by transforming the way people interact, work, and live their lives.  In Uber’s case, a central aspect of that transformation is redesigning the traditional employee/employer relationship: Uber classifies its drivers as independent contractors, not employees.  This decision benefits Uber and disadvantages its drivers because independent contractors do not receive the same basic legal privileges ­– such as anti-discrimination protections, minimum wage, and overtime – that employees do.

Owen H. Laird, Esq.

For New Yorkers, both the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York Labor Law provide employees with rights to a minimum wage and, in many cases, overtime pay. However, many workers in New York still do not receive the pay to which they are entitled; for instance, employers may under-report employees’ hours, improperly withhold wages or tips, or simply pay a wage lower than the State minimum.

However, many employees choose to let these violations go because they are “minimal.” An employer might underpay an employee for by a half hour for each pay period, a loss that might only amount to a few dollars a month. The employee could hesitate to pursue those lost wages, afraid of upsetting things at work or doubtful that they can find a lawyer to pursue a smaller case. Despite these potential concerns, employees who believe they are being illegally underpaid should not be afraid.

Yarelyn Mena and Edgar M. Rivera, Esq.

Several state investigations have found that the retail practice of “on-call scheduling” – where workers must call their employers to check if they are needed for scheduled shifts and are not paid if their shifts are cancelled – is so prevalent that several state attorney generals are demanding that major retailers respond to questions regarding their scheduling practices and answer requests for documentation.

On April 12, 2016, the attorney general of eight states and Washington D.C. sent letters to fifteen retailers, including Aeropostale, Payless and Coach, asking whether they use on-call scheduling and, if so, how they implement it. The retailers must provide answers by April 25, 2016. The officials are concerned about workers’ well-being because on-call scheduling leads to erratic schedules, making it difficult to plan child care, work a second job, or take classes.  Essentially, workers must make themselves available but are not guaranteed work while employers receive the benefits of always having workers available if the store becomes busy without having to pay workers.  On-call scheduling can also lead to unexpectedly low pay because employers often send employees home on slow days without proper compensation.  Additionally, low income workers often do not have the financial flexibility to allow for this type of uncertainty in their pay. In sum, on-call scheduling lets employers quickly staff their stores on busy days, and send employees home early on slow days, thus, saving money on payroll at the expense of their employee convenience.

Yarelyn Mena  and Edgar M. Rivera, Esq.

On March 23, 2016, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed in to law the Public Facilities Privacy of Security Act (or H.B. 2), which bans transgender people from using the public bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, overturns Charlotte, North Carolina’s anti-LGBT discrimination law, prevents other localities from passing anti-discrimination laws, and prevents cities from raising their minimum wages higher than that of the state. H.B. 2 was passed days before Transgender Day of Visibility, a day that recognizes the accomplishments of the transgender community. Although there were many recent victories for the LGBT community, H.B. 2 is an important reminder that there is still a lot of work to be done before LGBT individuals have the same rights everyone enjoys.

On February 22, 2016, the city of Charlotte, North Carolina passed a law prohibiting discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the workplace. The most controversial part of the law was that it would allow transgendered people to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. Opponents of the bill nicknamed it the “bathroom bill” and argue that it made bathrooms unsafe for women and children. University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Payton McGarry, a transgender student, is one of the Plaintiff’s in a lawsuit challenging H.B. 2, who has been assaulted and ridiculed for using the bathroom that comports with his gender identity at his university, experiences which will only grow worse with H.B. 2 in place. H.B. 2 abrogated that law.

Yarelyn Mena and Edgar M. Rivera, Esq.

In a 2014 case, Martin v. The United States, the United States Court of Federal Claims held that an employer’s late payment of wages violates the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and may trigger liquidated ”double payment” damages. The case arose out of the 2013 government shutdown (October 1, 2013 to October 16, 2013) which resulted in the untimely payment of wages to government workers.

Towards the end of 2013, Congress failed to issue funds for government workers, forcing the federal government into a partial shutdown. The shutdown took place in the first two weeks of October 2013, in the middle of a pay period, which resulted in plaintiffs unpaid government employees being paid only for work from September 22 to September 30, and not the first five days in October. Two weeks after their scheduled payday the plaintiffs received pay for those five days. They argued that the federal government’s failure to pay them for hours worked resulted in (i) underpayment that constituted a minimum wage violation, (ii) failure to pay non-exempt employees for overtime hours worked, and (iii) failure to pay even exempt employees for overtime hours worked.