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California Files for $17 Million in Back Wages, Unpaid Overtime from ZipRealty

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San Francisco, CAThe labor commissioner from California has filed a $17 million lawsuit against San Francisco-based real estate brokerage ZipRealty Inc. seeking back wages and unpaid overtime following the company's use of an Internet-based sales strategy, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The amount that Julie Su, the labor commissioner, and her office are asking for makes the case the largest minimum wage enforcement action in the history of California, according to the newspaper.

"In times like these, enforcement of the minimum wage is critical to maintaining a floor that allows workers to survive," Su told the Times. "This enforcement is important not just for employees but for hardworking employers who shouldn't have to compete against law breakers."

The lawsuit is related to a September decision by a Superior Court Judge that ruled that local ZipRealty agents were frequently unpaid, even though they were entitled to minimum wage. The company had argued that because these individuals were "outside sales persons," they were not eligible for the pay, according to the newspaper.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the suit is seeking damages for the minimum $8-an-hour pay that the employees are entitled to. Su went on to say that enforcement of these laws is vital to "maintaining a floor that allows workers to survive."

The San Francisco Business Times reported that the behavior allegedly went on for four years prior to the case being brought to Alameda County Superior Court.

The ZipRealty case has been identified as a symptom of growing problems in the recession-wracked market, Christine Baker, the acting director of the Department of Industrial Relations, told the Los Angeles Times.

"Violations of minimum labor standards are now occurring in a wide variety of occupations, even affecting employees outside traditional low-wage occupations," said Baker.

The case was one of several recent lawsuits against organizations in California that were accused of having fraudulent dealings with residents.

The California School of Culinary Arts, also known as Le Cordon Bleu, was the subject of a recent class-action lawsuit, as several recruiters who worked for the organization allege that they were given unrealistic minimum requirements as part of their employment, according to the Courthouse News Service.

"The effects of this unrelenting pressure caused admissions representatives to break down and cry on a frequent basis," according to the complaint that was filed.

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