As reported this week by the Fresno Bee (6/17/12), the lawsuit is based on a belief by the plaintiffs in the case that escrow and title officers are entitled to overtime pay given the work they do—namely the production of paperwork for title companies through working with homeowners, and ensuring real estate transactions are executed properly and within the letter of the law.
Plaintiffs in the unpaid overtime lawsuit claim that companies misclassified escrow officers by bestowing job titles such as 'senior escrow officer' or 'branch manager,' yet denied them the actual duties of a supervisor.
A former federal judge working on the case for the plaintiffs said in comments published in the Bee, that title companies "historically have had a practice of violating state and federal laws" by not paying escrow and title officers overtime, said Oliver W. Wanger. In many cases, Wanger said, "these employees explicitly were told not to write overtime on their time cards."
The defendant in the class action, North American Title Co., disagrees and contends in court papers the class action violates the company's due process rights.
"The amount of overtime worked by employees is an individual issue," according to their motion to oppose the class-action certification.
"The United States Supreme Court recently confirmed that employers have a due process right to individualized determination of each employees' eligibility for any recovery [of damages]."
Numerous employers have been found to avoid overtime pay by improperly classifying workers as an extension of management. In most cases, executives and managers are salaried employees and are exempt from overtime. By moving an employee into an exempted classification, the employer attempts to avoid having to pay overtime to an employee now saddled with a management classification, even though that person does no supervisory work and does not benefit from other perks of management.
According to California law, employees must be paid for all hours worked and receive overtime pay for hours worked in excess of eight hours in a workday or 40 hours in a workweek, unless they are classified as exempt.
READ MORE CALIFORNIA OVERTIME LEGAL NEWS
While North American Title Co. has a national presence, the lawsuit has its roots in the state of California. According to the Fresno Bee, escrow officer Lisa English was awarded a settlement approaching $200,000 following her testimony in a court case six years ago that her former employers at Financial Title Co. were unfair to her by letting her go, then claiming she hadn't been a good worker.
In the defamation trial that ensued, English was seen to be looking gaunt. Her attorney later learned the woman had been working long hours, without having benefit of overtime pay.
North American Title Co. is attempting to have the class action status in the current court case overturned. A hearing is scheduled for July 5th in Fresno Superior Court.