"We're working all these hours," Meizlish says his clients told him, "and we're just not making any money!"
After listening to how their employer applied a widely used section of the labor code to lawn care workers, Meizlish decided he definitely had a class action suit on his hands and filed a complaint against TruGreen on behalf of three lawn care technicians from Ohio.
The TruGreen employees signed on to work for the company on a 'Fluctuating Workweek' payment schedule. Simply put, employees found that their deal with TruGreen meant that overtime would be paid at half the rate of their regular pay. It means that the more they work, the lower their hourly wage.
The only reason employees go along with the deal is that they are guaranteed a minimum weekly wage regardless of how many hours they work.
According to Meizlish, TruGreen has been trying to have their cake and eat it too. In weeks where the work demands fell below 40 hours, the company opted out of the 'fluctuating workweek' method of payment.
"Basically what they are doing is trying to have it both ways," says Meizlich. "They are trying to take advantage of the system that allows them to pay smaller overtime, but they are not adhering to the other side of the equation, which is paying the guaranteed minimum salary."
Although politically incorrect, employees caught in a 'Fluctuating Workweek' jam commonly refer to it as 'Chinese Overtime'. There are dozens of blogs and discussion forums on the Internet where people who have worked under an employers' so-called 'Chinese Overtime' plan have taken to cursing and complaining about the frustrations of working longer for less.
READ MORE Overtime LEGAL NEWS
Meizlish says there are many employers across the US that use the 'Fluctuating Workweek' method of payment. "I would say it is quite widespread," he says.
Employees at the giant retailer, Lowe's, recently fought a court battle against 'Fluctuated Workweek' method of payment and won.
As many as 250 workers may be eligible to join the class action against TruGreen in Ohio.
Bruce Meizlish is a former trial lawyer with the National Labor Department. He graduated from George Washington University Law School in 1977 and earned a B.A. from Ohio State in 1977. He is member of the Ohio Employment Lawyers Association and Volunteer Lawyers for the Poor. He is a partner in the law firm Meizlish and Grayson in Cincinnati, Ohio.