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October 16, 2013: Madia Law Files Overtime Class Action Against Lessors, Inc.

Lessors, Inc. is a national trucking company based in Eagan, Minnesota.  On October 16, 2013, on behalf of current and former Lessors employees, Madia Law filed a class and collective action wage and hour lawsuit against Lessors in United States District Court. The plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and other employees, allege that Lessors has purposely denied employees overtime pay.

Minnesota Overtime Lawyers, Minneapolis Employment Attorneys, Wage and Hour Law Firm

The Fair Labor Standards Act and the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act both require higher wage rates for hours worked over 40 and 48, respectively. Although there are exceptions to these rules, Plaintiffs allege that Lessors has purposefully misclassified them and other employees as falling under such an exception in order to avoid paying them the overtime wage rates for which they are entitled. The following is a summary of the allegations in the Complaint, which is titled Luis Felix, Donald Knutson, and Juan Vazquez-Perez, individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated individuals and the Proposed Minnesota Rule 23 Class, Case No. 13-CV-2854 (DWF/JJG).

Lessors has been in the common carrier and specialized trucking and shipping businesses since 1983, hauling products and materials to consumers, retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, and distributors throughout the continental United States.

In addition to operating in each of the continental 48 States, Lessors has three full service terminals in Eagan, Minnesota, Dover, Florida, and Caldwell, Idaho. Lessors also has offices in Portsmouth, Virginia, Champaign, Illinois, and Nashville, Tennessee.

From July 2010 through July 2013, Plaintiff Luis Felix routinely worked over forty hours—and often over forty-eight hours—per week as a truck washer, a role unrelated to the safety of vehicles engaged in interstate commerce. For example, from December 26, 2011 until July, 2013, Felix worked a total of approximately 321 overtime hours, working over 40 hours approximately 63% of the time (49/78 weeks). This example does not constitute the total number of unpaid overtime hours for which Felix is entitled but has not been paid.

Although none of Felix’s pay was subject to an overtime rate exemption, Defendant did not pay Felix at a rate greater than his normal rate of pay for his overtime hours.

Since June 2011, Plaintiff Donald Knutson has almost always worked over forty hours—and often over forty-eight hours—per week as a truck washer, a role unrelated to the safety of vehicles engaged in interstate commerce. For example, from December 26, 2011 until September 8, 2013, Knutson worked a total of approximately 1194 overtime hours, working over 40 hours approximately 98% of all pay periods (87/89 weeks). This example does not constitute the total number of unpaid overtime hours for which Knutson is entitled but has not been paid.

Although none of Knutson’s pay was subject to an overtime rate exemption, Defendant did not pay Knutson at a rate greater than his normal rate of pay for his overtime hours.

During the three years prior to the filing of this complaint, Plaintiff Juan Vazquez-Perez often worked over forty hours—and often over forty-eight hours—per week. For example, from December 26, 2011 until September 8, 2013, Vazquez-Perez worked a total of approximately 229.5 overtime hours, working over 40 hours approximately 52% of all pay periods (46/89 weeks). Much of that time, Vasquez-Perez worked exclusively as a truck washer, a role unrelated to the safety of vehicles engaged in interstate commerce. This example does not constitute the total number of unpaid overtime hours for which Vasquez-Perez is entitled but has not been paid.
19. A significant portion of Vazquez-Perez’s pay periods were not subject to an overtime rate exemption; yet, Defendant did not pay Vazquez-Perez at a rate greater than his normal rate of pay for those overtime hours.

The FLSA requires covered employers, such as Defendant, to compensate all non-exempt employees, such as Plaintiffs and the similarly situated individuals, at a rate of not less than one and one-half (1.5) times their regular rate of pay for work performed in excess of forty (40) hours per week.

During the relevant statutory period, Plaintiffs, the similarly situated individuals, and the proposed Minnesota Rule 23 Class regularly and routinely worked—and are presently working—over forty hours per week. Defendant regularly and routinely does not pay Plaintiffs and the similarly situated individuals and the proposed Minnesota Rule 23 Class at overtime wage rates as required under state and federal law.

As hourly employees at Lessors’ terminals and offices who are not engaged in activities affecting the safety of vehicles traveling in interstate commerce, Plaintiffs and the similarly situated individuals and the proposed Minnesota Rule 23 Class members: 1) were and are subject to constant and direct supervision regarding their job duties; 2) do not and have not managed or supervised other employees; 3) have/had no input into the job status of other employees; 4) are/were not required to have a four year college degree; 5) do not and have not regularly exercised independent judgment and discretion about matters of significance; 6) have/had no authority to formulate or interpret company policies; 7) do not and have not had authority to deviate from company policy without approval; 8) do not have not had authority to commit Lessors in matters of significant financial impact; 9) do not and have not provided expert consultation or advice to management; and 10) are not subject to any of the exemptions outlined in Title 29 USC § 213 or any other rule or law.

At all times relevant herein, Plaintiffs and the similarly situated employees and members of the proposed Rule 23 Class were non-exempt employees under the FLSA and MFLSA.

Upon information and belief, Plaintiffs and the other similarly situated individuals are and have been treated by Defendant as employees exempt from overtime wage rates. However, Plaintiffs and the other similarly situated individuals are and were, in fact, non-exempt, hourly employees not subject to an exemption from overtime wage rate under the FLSA, MFLSA, or any other relevant law or regulation.

Defendant admit that Plaintiffs are and/or were hourly employees by regularly paying them at hourly wage rates, but Defendant knowingly, willfully, deliberately, and intentionally does not pay Plaintiffs, similarly situated employees, and members of the proposed Rule 23 Class applicable and appropriate overtime wages and/or rates.

Plaintiffs bring the MFLSA counts on behalf of themselves and as a class action pursuant to Rule 23 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. The proposed Minnesota Rule 23 Class is defined as, “All hourly employees who have worked for Defendant at any time from three years prior to the filing of the Complaint until the completion of the litigation (the “Minnesota Rule 23 Class”) who did not engage in activities affecting the safety of vehicles traveling in interstate commerce.”

The persons in the Minnesota Rule 23 Class are so numerous that joinder of all members of the proposed Minnesota Rule 23 Class is impracticable. While the precise number of class members has not been determined at this time, upon information and belief, Defendant has dozens of employees entitled to overtime compensation during the applicable limitations period who were not paid for their overtime hours. Plaintiffs and the proposed Minnesota Rule 23 Class have been similarly affected by Defendant’s violations of law.

There are questions of law and fact common to the proposed Minnesota Rule 23 Class that predominate over any questions solely affecting individuals members of the proposed Class, including but not limited to:

  • a. Whether Defendant paid class members proper overtime compensation under the MFLSA;
  • b. The proper measure of damages sustained by the proposed Minnesota Rule 23 Class; and
  • c. Whether Defendant should be enjoined from such violations in the future.

Plaintiffs’ claims are typical of those of the members of the Minnesota Rule 23 Class. Plaintiffs, like the other members of the proposed Minnesota Rule 23 Class, were subjected to Defendant’s policy and practice of willfully failing to pay overtime compensation to hourly employees not engaged in activities affecting the safety of vehicles traveling in interstate commerce. Plaintiffs and members of the proposed Minnesota Rule 23 Class have sustained similar injuries as a result of Defendant’s actions.

Plaintiffs will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the Minnesota Rule 23 Class and have retained counsel experienced in complex wage and hour class action litigation.

This action is properly maintainable as a class action under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(1), 23(b)(2), and 23(b)(3).

This action is properly maintainable as a class action under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(1) because prosecuting separate actions by individual class members would create a risk of inconsistent or varying adjudications with respect to individual class members that would establish incompatible standards of conduct for Defendant.

This action is properly maintainable as a class action under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(2) because Defendant has acted or refused to act on grounds generally applicable to the class, thereby making appropriate final injunctive relief or corresponding declaratory relief with respect to the class as a whole.

This action is properly maintainable as a class action under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3) because questions of law or fact predominate over any questions affecting individual class members, and a class action is superior to other methods in order to ensure a fair and efficient adjudication of this controversy because, in the context of wage and hour litigation, individual plaintiffs lack the financial resources to vigorously prosecute separate lawsuits in federal court against the large corporate defendant. Class litigation is also superior because it will preclude the need for unduly duplicative litigation resulting in inconsistent judgments pertaining to Defendant’s policies and practices. There do not appear to be any difficulties in managing this class action.

Plaintiffs intend to send notice to all members of the Minnesota Rule 23 Class to the extent required by Fed R. Civ. P. 23.

COUNT I
FAILURE TO PAY PROPER OVERTIME COMPENSATION
FAIR LABOR STANDARDS ACT

Defendant regularly engages in interstate commerce throughout the country.

Upon information and belief, Defendant knew or should have known that Plaintiffs and the similarly situated individuals performed work that required payment for all hours worked and overtime pay for hours worked over forty per week. Instead, Defendant operated under a scheme to deprive Plaintiffs and the similarly situated individuals of overtime compensation for hours worked over forty per week by treating them as exempt employees.

By failing to pay Plaintiffs and the similarly situated individuals overtime compensation for all hours worked in excess of forty, Defendant violated, and continues to violate, the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. Defendant’s conduct has been widespread, repeated, and consistent.

The conduct of Defendant as set forth herein was willful and in bad faith, and done with reckless disregard of whether the conduct was prohibited by law, and has caused significant damages to Plaintiffs and the similarly situated individuals.

Defendant is liable under the FLSA for treating Plaintiffs and the similarly situated individuals as exempt employees and thus failing to properly compensate them. There are numerous individuals who have been denied overtime pay for hours worked in excess of forty per week by Defendant, in violation of the FLSA, who would benefit from the issuance of a Court-supervised notice of the present lawsuit and the opportunity to join. These similarly situated individuals are known to Defendant, and are readily identifiable through its records.

Plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated individuals, seek damages in the amount of their and the similarly situated individuals’ unpaid overtime wages for all hour worked in excess of forty, an equal amount as liquidated damages, interest, all costs and attorney’s fees incurred in prosecuting this claim, all other relief available under the FLSA, and all other legal and equitable relief as the Court deems just and proper, including but limited to punitive damages.

COUNT II
FAILURE TO PAY PROPER OVERTIME COMPENSATION
MINNESOTA FAIR LABOR STANDARDS ACT

At all relevant times, Defendant was and is an employer within the meaning of the MFLSA, Minn Stat. 177.21 et seq.

Plaintiffs and members of the Minnesota Rule 23 Class worked for Defendant within the State of Minnesota at all relevant times and were employees of Defendant as defined by the MFLSA.

During the period of time that Plaintiffs and members of the Minnesota Rule 23 Class were employed by Defendant, they performed work for which they were not compensated in violation of the provisions of the MFLSA. Specifically, Defendant violated the MFLSA by failing to pay overtime wages for hours worked over forty-eight to Plaintiffs and the Minnesota Rule 23 Class.

Defendant’s failure to pay Plaintiffs and the Minnesota Rule 23 Class overtime wages for all hours worked over forty-eight per week was a willful and knowing violation of the MFLSA, or done by Defendant with a reckless disregard as to whether the conduct was prohibited by law.

As a result of Defendant’s willful, knowing, and/or reckless failure to properly compensate Plaintiffs and the Minnesota Rule 23 Class, Plaintiffs and the Minnesota Rule 23 Class have suffered damages to be further determined at trial.

Pursuant to the MFLSA, Defendant owes Plaintiffs and the Minnesota Rule 23 Class compensation for overtime wages, an additional equal amount as liquidated damages, plus civil penalties, an additional sum for attorneys’ fees and costs, and all other legal or equitable relief this Court deems just and proper, including but not limited to punitive damages.

PRAYER FOR RELIEF

WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs pray for judgment against Defendant as follows:

A. That notice of this lawsuit be given to all similarly situated individuals as soon as possible;

B. That the Court will certify the instant suit as an opt-in collective action under 29 U.S.C. 216(b) and a class action pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 23;

C. That Plaintiffs and the similarly situated individuals be determined and adjudicated to be hourly employees not engaged in activities affecting the safety of vehicles traveling in interstate commerce;

D. That the Court issue a declaratory judgment that Defendant’s acts, policies, practices and procedures complained of herein violate provisions of the FLSA and MFLSA;

E. That the Court order injunctive relief that Defendant be immediately ordered to comply with the FLSA and MFLSA;

F. That the Court award Plaintiffs and the other similarly situated individuals compensatory damages and an equal amount of liquidated damages as provided under the law;

G. That Plaintiffs and the similarly situated individuals recover an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses;

H. That the practices of Defendant complained of herein be determined and adjudicated to be willful violations of the FLSA and MFLSA;

I. That Plaintiffs be granted leave to amend the Complaint to add claims under applicable state and federal laws, to seek punitive damages, and to add other defendants who meet the definition of Plaintiffs’ and the similarly situated individuals’ “employer” under the FLSA and MFLSA;

J. For all other relief available under the FLSA and MFLSA; and

K. For all such further relief as the Court deems equitable and just, including but not limited to punitive damages.

Plaintiffs demand a jury trial.