Such is the case for about 100 Ventura County social workers who claimed their job classifications entitled them to overtime pay. After a federal court ruled their jobs did, indeed, qualify them for overtime pay under overtime pay laws, the plaintiffs sued their employer for three years of back wages.
Now, according to the Ventura County Star (8/19/13), the number of plaintiffs could double after a Los Angeles judge ruled that the interpretation could apply to more individuals.
According to the report, the current roster of plaintiffs looking for a fair shake from overtime pay laws was 103. But the judge ruled that recent retirees should also benefit. That kicks up the number of all eligible plaintiffs to about 200, and could cost the employer millions of dollars in back wages, according to attorneys familiar with the case.
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that social workers in Washington state were entitled to overtime because they did not have to follow an advanced, specialized course of study to get hired and thus were not “learned professionals.” The overtime pay ruling was handed down in September 2011, but Ventura County reportedly delayed responding to the ruling until March of this year.
At that time, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted to change 25 job classifications in order to comply with the federal ruling. A month later, social workers launched an overtime pay lawsuit against the County.
While there are 103 plaintiffs named in the lawsuit thus far, a total of 174 social workers were noted as affected by the classification change, excluding retirees.
Lydia Salinas was identified in the report as a social worker affected by the classification change. Salinas recalled working 10 to 15 hours of overtime per week dating back to 2010. As a social worker involved in the investigation of alleged child abuse cases, the workload increased as demand escalated for prompt investigations.
According to Salinas, the work ethic observed at the time was “we work until the job is done.” Overtime pay was not a factor as they thought their jobs were considered exempt from overtime. The 9th Circuit Court ruling changed all that. Now, the workers want what is their due according to California overtime law.
As a postscript, there is also some disagreement as to when the overtime liability actually originates. Attorneys for Ventura County hold that liability begins with the ruling of the 9th Circuit Court. However, attorneys for the plaintiffs note that various other jurisdictions in California had previously re-classified its workers and began providing overtime pay long before the ruling of the 9th Circuit Court.
In another alleged overtime pay laws violation, the California Labor Commissioner earlier this month filed a lien against Holiday Inn Express Eureka in an effort to collect in excess of $247,600 in unpaid wages to 31 construction workers involved in the new build.
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“Workers are supposed to get a prevailing wage, meaning they’ve set their pay and they’re not supposed to go below that,” California Department of Industrial Relations spokesman Peter Melton said in comments appearing in the Law Monitor Worldwide (8/13/13). “That would include things like overtime pay and weekend pay and holiday pay. So if a contractor hires a subcontractor to do part of the job and the subcontractor tries to cut their costs by hiring under that, in other words not paying prevailing wage, that’s basically against the law.”