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Underwriter Awarded California Overtime Settlement

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Petaluma, CAEvelyn was an underwriter in a credit department, where just about everyone worked 12-hour days, rarely taking lunch breaks. "I told upper management that I wanted to get paid for overtime; instead they re-classified me as exempt and put me on an hourly rate," says Evelyn, who believes her employer knew they were in violation of the California overtime laws.

"Five of the underwriters worked long hours without breaks," Evelyn explains. "Management encouraged us to work through lunch by ordering, buying and bringing lunch to our desks. One of my co-workers always arrived at the office at 8 am and he would go home for lunch (he lived close by) but then he would stay until 10 pm. And he worked weekends. I couldn't do that—I was already too fried. The amount of hours we spent in that office was ridiculous.

"This is how they operated: We were all paid salary and a bonus if we went over the threshold. It was like a treadmill—it kept speeding up. I made the threshold but I was new and my position didn't count—I got $140 bonus in one month for going over my threshold; I got a guaranteed bonus for six months along with my base salary but it was a joke—it was based on everyone's performance. So I didn't get a bonus for two years. I worked weekends, paid for day care and worked evenings and I wasn't paid for that.

"I was with Washington Mutual for 13 years, and four of those years I spent as an underwriter. During those four years I didn't get a dime of overtime. The more hours I worked, the more money I thought I would get in my bonus. One month I was literally in tears because it wasn't working for me.

"Eventually I limited the amount of overtime I did with them, but after chasing the carrot, I knew I wouldn't get a bonus. I made more in my previous job. I made more money as a senior processor than I did as an underwriter, because I was paid overtime as a senior processor—I made over $100,000. I definitely didn't make that amount as an underwriter—maybe about $42,000.

"Then the entire department was dismantled and the branch I worked at moved to Country Wide. I was transferred to another branch and this time I demanded overtime and that is when they put me on an hourly rate; I was classified as non-exempt at the height of the re-finance boom. They finally paid me overtime but only for the past three months and only because I was transferred.

"I was solicited by an attorney because someone had filed an overtime class action lawsuit. I got a settlement from Country Wide: They ended up owing me $25,000 for two years overtime. I settled for $17,000, which I got a few months ago. But I did more work at Washington Mutual—I worked my fingers to the bone. I figure they owe me thousands and thousands of dollars—three or four hours a day with no meal breaks for four years. Do the math!"


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