by Brian Mahany
Most people have not heard of the Fair Labor Standards Act or FSLA (it was passed post-Depression in 1938) but everyone knows when they have been wrongfully denied overtime or pay. Lately it seems one of the worst offenders are bankers and stockbrokers.
Working in a factory on a time clock mens it is pretty easy to measure how long you worked. You clock in and clock out. Often those same jobs are unionized meaning another layer of protection. White collar workers, however, seem to be getting the short end of the stick.
Merrill Lynch settled a potential class action lawsuit last week accusing the firm of not paying overtime to 12,000 associates. Client associates assist the financial advisers in a wide variety of back office and client support roles. Often they must work through lunch or stay late to meet have clients drop off or pick up materials. Over time, the amounts of unpaid time can quickly add up.
While Merrill Lynch admitted no wrongdoing, it agreed to pay $12 million to settle the charges. (This isn’t the first major overtime claim against ML nor is it the largest.)
The Merrill Lynch case is a bit unusual in that the client associates serve two masters. The brokerage firm pays them a salary and tells them not to work overtime while turning a blind eye to the financial advisers who often insist that their associates stay late. Because the associates have no real job security, they run the risk of losing their job – and often a bonus – if they refuse to work through lunch or stay late.
We have seen a dramatic upswing in cases against mortgage lenders too. Often mortgage bankers are expected to maintain certain hours for their branch. Although they are paid commission, in lean times those commissions sometimes don’t meet minimum wage standards. Staff must also stay late at times to meet clients and process loan paperwork. When the lender refuses to pay for those hours or the commissions don’t meet minimum wage levels, a potential violation exists. (Note: Some courts say that the mortgage brokers themselves are exempt from the overtime requirements, not the staff.)
Although individual cases are tough to bring, we find that where there is one branch with violations, all have the similar issues. There is also safety in numbers. One employee might be fearful of retaliation but there is safety and anonymity in a class action.
If you feel that you were improperly denied compensation – overtime or minimum wages – give us a call. We sue banks, brokerage firms and other financial institutions on behalf of both customers and employees. Even if you have been told that you are an independent contractor, you may still have a claim. Courts look at the actual relationship and not the employer created labels.
Mahany & Ertl – America’s Fraud Lawyers. Offices in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Detroit, Michigan; Portland, Maine; Minneapolis, Minnesota and San Francisco, California. IRS tax services available worldwide.
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