Category: Fair Labor Standards Act

Tofu House Serving Up Meaty Settlements

Korean restaurant chain, Kaju Tofu & BBQ (also often known as Gaju), has reached a settlement in a nearly three year old case. Former employees and plaintiffs, Yu Fen Jin and Ming Shu Jin sued the tofu/BBQ brand in July 2012 for various wage and hour claims.

Plaintiffs alleged that, as servers at the restaurant, they were continuously denied meal and rest periods even if they worked the applicable amount of hours. In fact, given the amount of hours the servers were expected to work, employees were actually making less than minimum wage per hour. At the time of filing, minimum wage in California was at $8 per hour.

These minimum wage violations and meal and rest period violations took place throughout 2008 to 2012. The restaurant chain, a subsidiary of Broadland Investment Inc., is owned by Jerry and Irene Roan. The case settled on the 7th day of trial for $250,000.

Minimum wage and rest/meal break violations are common in restaurants, especially smaller restaurant chains. There is a culture of constant work, no breaks, for the good of the restaurant’s business. If this sounds familiar, please do not hesitate to contact an Aegis attorney immediately to discuss your situation.

Source: Daily Journal

Burger King is Grilling Up a Lawsuit

Burger Kings in Florida are seeing stormy weather ahead. A new lawsuit that originated in Florida and is now in federal court, alleges that the Burger King Corporation misclassified operations coaching managers and managerial trainees as exempt employees in order to save the national fast food chain money. However, by putting these employees on an exempt salary, it opened up the company to liability.

The managers, or “coaches” and the trainee employees did not fall under any sort of exemption promulgated by either federal or Florida state law. They did not have any sort of supervisory tasks; even the coaches were participating in laborious, non-specialized tasks like cleaning bathrooms and cashiering.

The company allegedly sought to circumvent overtime and double time laws. Stores needed to get tasks done but did not want to pay for the extra hours it might take to complete these tasks. Trainees, specifically, were waiting for a permanent managerial position to open up at a store so there was a continuous overstock of managerial labor. As a result, they were assigned non-exempt duties, but still paid as if they were managers already.

Trainees had to work four days a week, for up to 13 hours a day, to fulfil their “corporate leadership development program” to become full-fledged managers. For those hours, however, they were cooking hamburgers and cleaning the restaurant, rather than doing managerial training. The lawsuit alleges that the company misclassified its employees on purpose, “The policy saves millions of dollars in labor costs…years of litigation (even unsuccessful) is more cost effective than complying with the law due to its rolling statute of limitations.” More than 1,500 employees might qualify to be a part of this class.

Source: Topclassactions.com

Former Wet Seal Employees Turn to the Law for Help

Earlier this month, the retail chain, Wet Seal announced they were abruptly closing the majority of their stores, resulting in the lay-off of over 3,000 employees. The employees were given only a day’s worth of notice and had to forfeit accrued vacation and benefits. We previously blogged about it here. While at the time the disgruntled took to social media as an outlet of frustration, the former employees have now turned to the law for help.

Plaintiffs Katelin Pruitt and Lalaine Ortega have filed a class action suit on behalf of themselves and those similarly situation in federal court. While the two worked in states outside of California, the suit is filed in the Central District of California, where the company’s headquarters are.

Plaintiffs and their attorneys allege that Wet Seal violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (“WARN Act”) because it did not provide a legal amount of notice to employees who were being laid off. According to the WARN ACT, a qualified employer must give 60 days’ notice for a mass layoff to take place that results in a force reduction of 33%.

As the window signs that have been circulating around social media suggest, employees were not given such ample notice. In fact, they were discouraged from finding other jobs and were told the stores were undergoing a remodeling, hence things having to be taken down.

Further, the suit alleges that the company failed to pay out employees for earned vacation time and overtime. The company also immediately cut health and medical insurance to terminated employees. And while in California dissolving sick pay is not unlawful, it just added insult to injury when accrued sick time also disappeared.

A day after the suit was filed, Wet Seal filed for bankruptcy. Despite this, the plaintiffs are calling for 60 days’ worth of wages and benefits for those who qualify as class members. They are also seeking attorneys’ fees and costs.

Source: Topclassactions.com

America’s Next Top Lawsuit

For twenty-one seasons, model mogul Tyra Banks has produced and hosted America’s Next Top Model, a reality show competition where women (and in the most recent cycles, men) vie for the title for which the show is named and a large modeling prize. The show spun off a successful franchise of modeling shows internationally, including Britain’s Next Top Model, Asia’s Next Top Model, and Africa’s Next Top Model.

In 2011, Banks broke the mold of the show, where traditionally she plucks model hopefuls from relative obscurity. In the show’s 17th season, Banks cast non-winning models from previous season to create an “All-Star” cycle. One of those models, Angelea Preston, previously competed in Cycle 14 and placed 3rd.del mogul Tyra Banks has produced and hosted America’s Next Top Model, a reality show competition where women (and in the most recent cycles, men) vie for the title for which the show is named and a large modeling prize. The show spun off a successful franchise of modeling shows internationally, including Britain’s Next Top Model, Asia’s Next Top Model, and Africa’s Next Top Model.

Angelea Preston made it to the top 3 again, and this time, won. However, in an odd turn of events and an unusual re-filming of the finale; Banks announced during the episode’s air that Preston had been disqualified. At the time, the reason was not disclosed nor was it announced that Preston was the original winner.

The grand prize, consisting of a $100,000 Cover Girl contract and a spread in Vogue Italia, went to 30 year old Lisa D’Amato who was previously on Cycle 5.

Several months later, the truth came out. Preston had been disqualified for working as an escort for a year, previous to the show. The former winner asserted that she had disclosed that information in confidence to producers before the show started filming. From there, Preston alleges, the gossip spread like wild fire to cast and crew.

The CW Network, who airs the show, said Preston had violated their contract with her escort past. Preston argues that her escort life was not unlawful since she was not a prostitute, and her year of employment with the service was previous to her renewed participation in the show.

Now, Preston has filed a lawsuit against Banks, the CW Network, the studio, and several producers, claiming that she was the real winner of the cycle and is therefore entitled to the prize package. Preston is alleging breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and violations of the Labor Code.

For Labor Code violations, Preston is alleging that the model contestants were subject to terrible working conditions, sometimes working more than 12 hours straight without a meal and rest break.

Preston is demanding $3 million in damages.

Source: CBS LA

Black Friday Protests—A Walmart Tradition

Retailers who opened at 6pm on Thanksgiving Day are already asking employees to leave their family and holiday festivities to man the doors and battle stations on what has become “Gray Thursday” leading into the infamous Black Friday. Some retailer won’t pay their employees a livable wage. That is the subject of the largest Black Friday protests against retail giant Walmart.

With protests planned for 1,600 stores in 49 states, Walmart strikers are demanding higher wages and less reliance on government aid to get by. One store in Oklahoma City set up a canned food drive outside their doors to help feed underpaid associates. Something seems off about that picture.

If you go to one of the 1,600 out of 4,000 stores with picket lines, you will be greeted with leaflets and picket signs that read: “Walmart: Stop Bullying, Stop Firing, Start Paying” and “We’re Drawing a Line at the Poverty Line: $25,000.”

Fatmata Jabbie, a single mother in Virginia, earns $8.40 per hour, and works just under Walmart’s mandated 30 hours for health care. She and her children survive on food stamps, low income housing, and government provided healthcare. She, along with other protestors in Alexandria, Virginia, are calling for a $15 per hour wage and full time employment.

Walmart is the country’s largest retailer, employing approximately 1.4 million people. OUR Walmart (Organization for Respect at Walmart) began in 2011 and has used a systematic public relations campaign to publicly shame the company for its rule bending ways.

Some strikers began their protest before Thanksgiving began, walking off their shifts. Several employees and community members are participating in a 24 hours fast to protest the “poverty wages” that Walmart pays. Some strikers stood in the store, in front of products, their lips duct taped shut.

Source: Business Week & Mother Jones

Image Source: Twitter (image from Walmart in Long Beach, CA)