U.S. District Court Finalizes Approval and Distribution of $36 Million in Landmark Bank of America Wage Settlement
California Attorney Bryan Schwartz Announces Hundreds of Real Estate Appraisers Will Quickly Receive Average Gross Payments of Nearly $100,000 Each
January 20, 2016, Oakland – Today, employment and civil rights attorney Bryan Schwartz announced court approval of a $36 million settlement between Landsafe Appraisal Services, Inc., a subsidiary of Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) and 369 current and former employees working as residential real estate staff appraisers. At today's hearing where final approval was granted, the federal court in Orange County, Judge David O. Carter, remarked on the excellent result and the exceptional representation provided throughout the lawsuit, which alleged wage violations. Plaintiffs and the other class members should receive average gross payments of nearly $100,000 within the next month.
The lawsuit was first filed in April 2013 in federal court in Orange County. It alleged that Bank of America erroneously applied the "administrative" and "professional" exemptions to residential staff appraisers. Plaintiffs maintained that they typically worked from early in the morning until late at night, churning out reports that are a required part of every mortgage loan. The job required no special academic degree - just a state license.
In approving the settlement, at the hearing, the court noted favorably that, as a result of the lawsuit, the new owner of Landsafe – CoreLogic – has begun paying all appraisers overtime.
One of the named plaintiffs, Ethel Joann Parks of Manteca, California worked for Bank of America’s Landsafe until 2012. For years, she regularly toiled from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. completing appraisal reports and, in the process, missing out on daily life and major family events. Rarely did she have time throughout the day to take a break to eat or rest because the artificially short deadlines set by Bank of America forced her to constantly keep working.
Ms. Parks decided to step forward because she felt that bank failed to treat her, and other staff appraisers, “as human beings” with “family and personal needs that should be acknowledged.” She added, “I am vindicated by this lawsuit and the exceptional relief obtained on behalf of the class. I hope it will force banks and appraisal management companies throughout the country to reconsider pressuring their staff appraisers to work long hours without paying overtime.”
“We are delighted by the court’s recognition of this outstanding result, which not only provides meaningful compensation to hundreds of people, but, we hope, will lead to industry change for many thousands more,” said Bryan Schwartz, founder of Bryan Schwartz Law, lead counsel for the 369 class members, along with the Los Angeles-based firm of Schonbrun Seplow Harris & Hoffman.
Witnesses supporting the settlement, including an appraiser and industry expert, testified that, as Schwartz hopes, the settlement will send waves and affect change throughout the real estate appraisal industry.
Judge Carter certified a nationwide class action in December 2013 under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, and certified a class action in California in June 2014 under the California Labor Code. In May 2015, the Court granted plaintiffs summary judgment as to the major defenses Bank of America was asserting, and rejected the bank’s effort to kick the suit out of court. This resulted in a ruling under which Bank of America would likely owe the workers considerable back wages for overtime and missed meal and rest periods.
The bank then asked the Court for permission to appeal the summary judgment decision immediately, denying any wrongdoing. The case was set to go to trial in August 2015, but the parties reached the $36 million settlement finally approved this week.
For Attorney Schwartz, this is just one of many recent settlements in service of employees who were denied lawful compensation for their efforts. In 2014, Schwartz and his co-counsel settled another part of the same case against Bank of America (as to review appraisers) for $5.8 million. This makes nearly $42 million for workers in the suit as a whole. Schwartz has also achieved numerous other multi-million dollar settlements on behalf of thousands of misclassified workers nationwide.
“Employers take grave risks by cutting corners, and not fairly compensating their employees in tune with state and federal law. My firm and many others, including my co-counsel, are working to end wage theft in the economy…quickly,” added Schwartz.
The case is Terry P. Boyd et al. v. Bank of America Corp. et al., case number 8:13-cv-00561, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
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Bryan Schwartz Law is dedicated to continuing the struggle for civil rights and equality of employment opportunity and helping Americans from every background to achieve their highest career potential. The firm has recovered tens of millions of dollars in individual, class, and collective actions involving discrimination and retaliation, harassment, denied disability accommodations, whistleblower reprisal, wage and hour violations, Federal employees' rights, and severance negotiations.