wage theft class actions

Court preliminarily approves DCH mechanics settlement  

February 24, 2017 – Firm partner Nicholas Carlin announced today that Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ann I. Jones has granted the firm's motion for preliminary approval of the settlement agreement reached in the firm's wage theft class action against DCH Auto Group and its parent entity Lithia Motors, Inc. (the eighth largest automotive retailer in the U.S.) The court's ruling found that the settlement of over $4 million or about $10,000 per class member – a result of years of litigation and months of exhaustive mediation – was reasonable. The Court also granted conditional class certification for the class of approximately 400 California based auto mechanics, and appointed the firm class counsel.  

UPDATE – March 9, 2017 – The court entered its order granting preliminary approval of this settlement today.  The class administrator has begun the process of giving notice to the class.  For more information about the settlement, click here.  For more information about the DCH case, click here

Firm forces disclosure in DCH Auto wage theft case

January 11, 2017 – Firm partner Randy Erlewine today prevailed upon a state court judge to compel DCH Auto Group and its related entities to disclose employee information in the firm’s ongoing wage theft class action against them.  In a carefully considered opinion, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Gail Ruderman Feuer sided with the firm’s clients, a putative class of approximately 2,000 of the auto dealership chain’s current and former clerical and other non-mechanic employees, ruling that the dealership chain must supplement discovery responses and provide employee contact information following an opt-out opportunity.  Judge Feuer also rejected the argument that, after a stay in discovery was vacated, objections to further discovery responses were warranted because of the pendency of other actions filed against it in the interim.  For more information on the case, click here

Firm moves for preliminary approval of DCH mechanics settlement

January 3, 2017 – In his capacity as co-lead counsel, firm partner Nicholas Carlin today filed a motion for preliminary approval of the settlement the firm concluded last year on behalf of a class of approximately 400 California-based auto mechanics with DCH Auto Group and its related corporate entities and parent, Lithia Motors, Inc. (the eighth largest automotive retailer in the U.S.), in its wage theft case against them.  The settlement agreement comes after several months of intensive mediation with a well-respected retired California state court judge, and provides for a total monetary recovery of over $4 million, or about $10,000 per class member.  The California Judicial Council has appointed Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ann I. Jones to preside over coordinated proceedings in the matter.  A hearing on the firm’s motion before Judge Jones is pending. 

Firm launches class action over Uber stock option promises

December 19, 2016 – Firm partners Randy Erlewine and Nick Carlin today filed a class action in the federal district court in San Francisco on behalf of employees of car-sharing service Uber Technologies. The lawsuit alleges that Uber promised these employees – many highly sought-after software engineers and other technology workers – the most valuable type of stock options (commonly referred to as “Incentive Stock Options”) as part of their employment contracts, but after they joined the company, granted far less valuable options (commonly referred to as “Non-Qualified Stock Options”), and that Uber acted to prevent employees from exercising their options at the promised times. The lawsuit further alleges that Uber misrepresented the terms of the options and never had any intention of honoring its promises. This lawsuit comes on the heels of the firm’s victory against Uber in a parallel state court action on similar issues arising under California’s Private Attorney General Act for violations of the California Labor Code.  Despite Uber's argument that its stock option compensation promises were unenforceable, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Harold E. Kahn sided with the firm's client and overruled Uber’s effort to defeat the claim against it based on those promises, allowing the case to move forward on the theory that those promises were false when made and therefore a violation of state statutory law. Further proceedings in that action are pending.

Firm sacks John Elway's car dealership in wage theft dispute

December 1, 2016 – San Bernardino County Superior Court judge Donald Alvarez sided with the firm and denied the summary judgment motion of John Elway's Crown Toyota in the firm's ongoing battle to enforce wage rights of a group of auto mechanics working at the Southern California auto dealership. Firm lawyers Brian Conlon and Nick Carlin successfully convinced Judge Alvarez that a PAGA representative action for some 50 mechanics could proceed to trial notwithstanding the settlement of individual claims for back wages. Elway argued that the individual settlements deprived those mechanics of standing to sue under PAGA (the California Labor Code Private Attorney General Act). Conlon and Carlin countered that PAGA was enacted to deputize employees to act on behalf of the State of California to impose penalties on employers who violate labor regulations, and therefore settlement of individual wage claims does not affect the right of the state and its deputized employees to enforce those regulations. Judge Alvarez agreed with the firm and denied Elway’s motion, scheduling a trial-setting conference for Dec. 9th. 

Firm files class action on behalf of Lithia Motors/DCH Auto employees

August 29, 2016 – Firm Partners Nick Carlin and Randy Erlewine today filed a class action complaint for wage theft and related labor code violations against Lithia Motors, Inc., the owner of DCH Auto Group, on behalf of a group on non-technician employees for wage and hour violations under California law.  The complaint, filed in federal court in Los Angeles, alleges that DCH failed to provide meal and rest breaks to its employees, failed to pay overtime, and failed to provide proper wage statements.  The Complaint further alleges that DCH knowingly committed fraud and conversion by falsifying time records to show that employees had taken meal breaks when in fact they had not, and seeks recovery of punitive damages. The case represents individuals employed at the dealerships in hourly, non-exempt positions, including office workers and service writers.  The firm recently settled another case against DCH on behalf of a group of approximately 400 technicians (mechanics) for over $4 million; court approval of that settlement is pending.  

Lithia Motors/DCH Auto Group to pay mechanics $4 million to settle labor claims

August 25, 2016 – Firm partner Nicholas A. Carlin announced today, by Notice of Settlementfiled with the Los Angeles Superior Court, that DCH Auto Group and its parent company, Lithia Motors, Inc., have agreed to a class wide settlement of all wage and hour claims against them by current and former auto mechanic employees of their California DCH dealerships.  The agreement acknowledges that previous payments made to some employees in the amount of $435,600 was a result of the litigation, and provides for payment of an additional $3.6 million to the class, bringing the total value of the litigation to the employees to over $4 million. As there are over 400 class members, this is an average of just under $10,000 per class member. The settlement amount is inclusive of attorneys’ fees, costs and class representative service awards. While court approval is pending, Mr. Carlin is expected to serve as co-lead counsel.

Firm beats back summary judgment motion in wage theft, retaliation case

December 9, 2015 – PEG&C partner Randy Erlewine today defeated the motion of defendant Jeff Burgess & Associates, Inc., which sought dismissal of the claims of the firm’s client under California’s wage and hour laws for overtime and premium pay.  Marin County Superior Court Judge Roy O. Chernus agreed with the firm that material issues of fact over the client’s duties and responsibilities as the CEO’s executive assistant precluded summary judgment on those claims.  Judge Chernus’ ruling opens the door to the same or similar claims on behalf of other employees of the defendant under California’s so-called PAGA statute; among other things, evidence adduced thus far in the case indicates that the defendant employer treated all of its employees as exempt from the California state statutory law’s wage and hour protections.  In addition to her discrimination and retaliation claims, the firm’s client has alleged a wide-spread pattern and practice of wage theft by her former employer, potentially implicating years of wages of numerous current and former employees.  The case is Bronson v. Jeff Burgess & Associates, Inc., et al., Case No. CV1404660.

Court orders employer to turn over records in wage theft case

October 28, 2015 – Marin County Superior Court Judge Roy O. Chernus today ruled in favor of the motion of firm client to compel her former employer to produce documents and answer written questions under oath relating to her wage theft case.  The firm's client brought a so-called PAGA case on her own behalf and on behalf of all other employees of Jeff Burgess & Associates, Inc., claiming that the company engaged in systematic and persistent wage and hour violations under California law.  In addition to ordering wide-ranging discovery into its digital files, Judge Chernus ordered the employer to turn over information about other employees and to give those employees notice of the client's pending claims, in which they may have an interest.  Judge Chernus directed the employer to comply within 30 days of the court’s order.  

Court sets "global" mediation of DCH wage theft dispute

August 6, 2015 – Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Emilie Elias today considered the petition for coordination filed by the firm on behalf of client Candace Holzer in her case against auto dealership giant DCH/Lithia Motors for wage theft under California statutory law.  Currently pending are seven separate court cases filed by different employees against one or another of the various DCH entities and dealerships, in addition to a growing number of private individual arbitrations, for similar wage and hour violations.  In a proceeding that lasted most of the morning, Judge Elias agreed with the firm that its follow-on case for employee Ryan Dale (who says DCH/Lithia coerced him and others into signing “settlement” agreements over these claims without the benefit of counsel and in violation of law) should be deemed an “included action” in any coordination.  She retained jurisdiction over all such cases, stayed proceedings in them, and allowed the parties to commence a mediation of all claims before one mediator.  Judge Elias set a deadline of March of next year to conclude that mediation.  A court order is pending.

Firm launches second case in wage theft action against car dealership

June 30, 2015 – The firm has filed a second lawsuit against DCH Auto Group (now owned by Lithia Motors, one of the largest chains of car dealerships in the nation) for claims arising from DCH’s labor practices in the State of California, where it owns and operates over a dozen car dealerships.  In a complaint filed today in Los Angeles County Superior Court, auto mechanic Ryan Dale accuses DCH of fraud and unfair competition, among other things, in connection with DCH’s practice of calling employees into “settlement” meetings with management and coercing those employees to sign away their wage claims for pennies on the dollar, in violation of law.  These “settlement” meetings were apparently in response to allegations which continue to accumulate and are now pending in six separate lawsuits in three different California Superior Courts against DCH alleging systemic and persistent wage and hour law violations.  Employees’ claims include failure to provide statutorily-mandated breaks (and falsifying time records to cover them up), failure to pay minimum wages, and failure to pay all earned wages.  The firm recently sought to have those lawsuits coordinated by one judge; the California Judicial Council will hear the firm’s application to do so in early August.

Full throttle on coordination of PAGA cases against DCH Auto Group

June 12, 2015 – The firm applied today to the State of California's Judicial Council to coordinate several PAGA complaints against DCH Auto Group (USA) in the Los Angeles Superior Court.  Six suits are pending in Southern California by current and former employees against the auto sales giant and its affiliated dealerships alleging numerous and persistent violations of the California labor code, including denying employees meal and rest breaks, failing to pay for overtime work, failing to pay minimum wages, failing to reimburse employees for out-of-pocket costs, and falsifying employees’ time records to cover it up. Coordination of the cases expands and consolidates the potential number of dealerships included in issue as well as expands and consolidates the categories of employees covered by the claims to include clerical and office workers, service writers, auto mechanics and technicians, and sales people. The firm’s investigation of this matter is ongoing:  For more information about that subject, click here.

Issue joined and case management conference set in Spenger’s wage theft case

May 12, 2015 – Defendants today answered the allegations of an amended complaint filed in San Francisco federal court in a class action brought by the firm on behalf of a former employee of the famed Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto.  The restaurant, currently owned and operated by restaurant chain McCormick & Schmick, in turn a wholly owned subsidiary of Landry’s (until 2010, a publicly traded company), has been an East Bay fixture on Fourth Street in Berkeley since the 1930s.  The amended complaint amplifies claims previously made against these two entities for persistent and systematic wage and hour violations under California law.  Hundreds of current and former restaurant employees may have been damaged by these alleged violations.  A recent court order has set a case management conference in the matter for June 4th.

Firm rolls over attempt to throttle car dealership proceeding

March 12, 2015 – Firm partner Nick Carlin succeeded today in overcoming multiple objections to moving forward with client Candace Holzer’s wage theft case against DCH Auto Group, one of the largest auto dealerships in the nation, a case brought under California’s Private Attorneys General Act and seeking broad compensatory relief.  Siding with Ms. Holzer, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson rejected DCH’s attempt to compel arbitration of Ms. Holzer’s wage and hour claims on behalf of herself and all other non-exempt employees throughout the State of California; Judge Johnson also refused to grant a stay of Ms. Holzer’s case, as requested by DCH on multiple grounds, including the existence of pending arbitration proceedings by others on their own individual wage theft claims.  The court’s order is pending.  For more information about the case, which now enters the pre-trial discovery phase, click here.

Firm launches wage theft case against famed Berkeley restaurant

February 23, 2015 – The firm today filed a 23-page federal court complaint against the owner and operator (together with the corporate parent) of Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto, the popular seafood restaurant located in Berkeley, on behalf of a putative class of the restaurant's workers. The class action complaint alleges a pattern and practice of unlawful conduct, including forcing employees to work off-the-clock and without compensation, failing to provide statutorily required breaks, failing to provide accurate and complete wage statements and engaging in fraudulent recordkeeping. The court has set the first hearing in the case for May.

Firm revs up PAGA litigation against DCH Auto Group for wage and hour violations

October 14, 2014 – Firm partner Nicholas Carlin filed an amended complaint today in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of Candace Holzer, a former employee of DCH Auto Group (one of the largest auto dealerships in the nation – recently acquired by Lithia Motors [NYSE:LAD]), seeking relief under the California Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”) for wage and hour violations. The complaint alleges, among other things, that DCH failed to allow its employees to take meal and rest breaks, and falsified time records to show that employees clocked out for lunch when in fact they were still working. The complaint seeks recovery on behalf of Ms. Holzer and all other non-exempt employees of DCH in all of its auto dealerships in California. Any current or former employee with information about such potential labor code violations is encouraged to contact the firm. PE&G has launched a website as a part of its investigation of California car dealerships affiliated with DCH Auto Group for possible systematic labor code violations.   

Court grants final approval of wage and hour class action settlement

February 19, 2014 – The San Francisco Superior Court today approved the settlement of a class action on behalf of hundreds of minimum wage workers, who alleged they had been unlawfully denied meal and rest breaks. Under the settlement, each of 525 class members, represented by partner Nicholas Carlin, will receive payments averaging over $1,650, and in many cases exceeding $5,000. In addition, defendants will pay a record $45,000 in penalties to the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency.

Court preliminarily approves $1.9 million settlement of wage and hour class action

November 18, 2013 – The San Francisco Superior Court granted preliminary approval of the settlement of a class action on behalf of approximately 700 minimum wage workers, represented by Nick Carlin, who alleged the workers had been unlawfully denied meal and rest breaks. Under the settlement, class members are expected to receive roughly one hour of pay for each shift worked during the time period covered by the lawsuit or an average of over $1,500 each. Defendants will also pay PE&G's fees and costs, as well as $45,000 in penalties to the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency. The court will hold a final approval hearing on February 19, 2014.

Court orders restaurant chain to turn over evidence, pay monetary sanction for obstruction

April 26, 2013 – Defendant restaurant chain and its owners stonewalled the firm's attempts to obtain material evidence, on behalf of its restaurant worker clients including records of time worked and wages earned by employees, and evidence of defendants' financial dealings. Paul A. Renne, Esq., acting as Pro Tem Judge of the San Francisco Superior Court, had "little sympathy" for defendants and flatly rejected their contentions -- including their argument that Judicial Council form interrogatories were vague and sought irrelevant information -- and he held that defendants had failed entirely to engage in a good faith effort to respond to plaintiffs' legitimate discovery requests. Judge Renne ordered the defendants to provide virtually all of the information plaintiffs requested, and also ordered defendants and their lawyers to pay $5,000 in monetary sanctions for their willful obstruction of discovery. PE&G attorney Alex Tuzin led this effort. The case is Sayre v. SFS 39, Inc., San Francisco Superior Court Case No. CGC-12-523838.

Class case clears important hurdle

April 16, 2013 – PE&G attorney Nick Carlin thwarted an attempt by defendant restaurant chain to stall – potentially for years – the firm's clients' class action claims for wage theft and other violations of the California Labor Code. The restaurant chain recently began requiring its employees to sign arbitration agreements, and Mr. Carlin represents a separate group of employees in arbitration who were similarly deprived of their rights. The restaurant chain argued that all proceedings in the class action (involving plaintiffs who did not sign the arbitration agreement) should halt until after the arbitration is concluded. The firm's attorneys successfully argued to San Francisco Superior Court judge Marla Miller that this was an improper effort to hold the class action hostage and deny the firm's clients access to the justice system. The judge agreed, and permitted the class action to move forward. 

Summary

Our firm works on behalf of employees on a class-wide basis, helping them to recover earnings lost as a result of unlawful labor practices. These Labor Code violations range from denial of meal and rest breaks to falsifying of time records and denial of overtime pay. Our most recent victory in this area resulted in a $1.9 million settlement and an average payment of over $1,650 to each of the individual class members.

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