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By Lisa Nagele
Jan. 5 — A federal judge in California Jan. 2 preliminarily approved an $8.75 million agreement to settle the state law wage and hour claims of approximately 20,270 temporary workers who asserted that Manpower Inc. failed to timely pay wages to employees receiving paychecks via U.S. mail and failed to provide accurate wage statements.
After denying a proposed settlement agreement in September because of several deficiencies, Judge Jon S. Tigar of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California preliminary approved a revised agreement and granted conditional certification of the proposed class for settlement purposes.
The class, led by plaintiff Vera Willner, is defined as all current and former temporary employees who performed work in California for the staffing agency at any time from March 17, 2010, through Jan. 20, 2012, “who received their wage statements (i.e. paystub) by U.S. mail, payment card or electronic submission, except individuals who were or are at the same time jointly employed by a franchisee of Manpower Inc.”
The temporary workers in California claimed Manpower mailed them paychecks from Texas, knowing the wages would arrive after the designated payday, and Judge Jon S. Tigar said this could violate the state's unfair competition law.
The proposed settlement terms include up to $2.9 million in attorneys' fees, $50,000 in litigation expenses, an $11,000 incentive payment to Willner for serving as class representative, $104,326 to the claims administrator and about $65,600 to the state Labor and Workforce Development Agency in civil penalties pursuant to the Private Attorneys General Act.
Willner asserted that temporary workers “were subjected to an illegal late payment policy and an illegal wage statement policy in violation of California law.”
She identified a “late payment class” made up of temporary workers who received their weekly wages via U.S. mail after the “regular payday” in violation of the state labor code.
Willner claimed Manpower willfully failed to comply with California law by mailing paychecks from Texas on the designated payday. The company knew the workers wouldn't receive their paychecks for at least two to three days after that payday, she said.
In March, the court granted Manpower’s motion for judgment on the pleadings with respect to this count, finding that Willner failed to show that temporary employees are entitled to recover penalties under the relevant section of the labor code for an employer’s failure to pay weekly wages on time.
However, the court denied summary judgment for Manpower on Willner’s related claim under the state’s unfair competition law “because a party may bring a UCL claim under the unlawful prong even if the predicate law does not provide for a private cause of action” and “a genuine issue of material fact exists with respect to whether Manpower mailed paychecks to Willner by the payday.”
The court also denied summary judgment for Manpower on Willner's wage statement claims because there was a genuine factual dispute.
Willner's fifth amended complaint defined the “inaccurate wage statement class” to include all temporary workers regardless of how they received their wage statements.
She claimed Manpower failed to accurately list on wage statements “the inclusive dates of the period for which the employee is paid” and “the name and address of the legal entity that is the employer.”
The amended settlement agreement corrected several deficiencies that previously caused the court to deny preliminary approval, Tigar said.
The language of the release was revised “to clarify that it applies only to claims that ‘arise out of the allegations in the operative complaint,' ” whereas the original agreement was overly broad in releasing claims “related in any way to any claim alleged in the Lawsuit,” he said.
Additionally, Tigar said, the revised agreement remedies a discrepancy between the estimated number of class members listed in the agreement and the amount identified by class counsel; identifies the average payment each class member will receive; identifies the estimated amount to be paid to the claims administrator; and lists the claims administrator’s contact information.
The revised agreement also provides class members with 60 days—instead of 30 days—to opt out or object to the settlement.
“In light of the parties’ amendments to the proposed settlement agreement, the Court concludes that the settlement falls ‘within the range of possible approval,' ” Tigar said.
Goldstein Borgen Dardarian & Ho and Jackson Hanson LLP represented the class. McGuireWoods LLP represented Manpower.
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Text of the order is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/Willner_v_Manpower_Inc_Docket_No_311cv02846_ND_Cal_Jun_10_2011_Co/4.
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