"Mill Valley Tourism Firm Settles Lawsuit Over Alleged Wage Abuses"
Marin Independent Journal, January 31, 2014 (online)
By Gary Klien
A Mill Valley travel company has settled a lawsuit by tour guides who claimed wage violations.
Adventures Rolling Cross-Country, which organizes tours for teenagers in the United States and abroad, agreed to compensate the tour leaders from a $500,000 settlement fund. The company also agreed to classify all employees as nonexempt from overtime laws and to honor minimum wage standards.
The suit was originally filed in 2012 by two tour leaders who claimed they worked 12 to 16 hours a day on their trips, with no rest time or meal breaks, and were essentially "babysitting" the teens around the clock. The tour leaders claimed their average hourly wage amounted to about $3.
The plaintiffs' law firm said 369 employees were eligible to join a class action and 317 participated. The compensation will amount to an average of $800, or more than half of what tour leaders were paid for their trips, said plaintiffs' attorney Bryan Schwartz of Oakland.
Scott von Eschen, president of the travel company, said he encouraged his employees to participate in the class settlement.
"At ARCC, we always felt that we were a summer camp and compensated our leaders accordingly," von Eschen said in prepared statement. "When the Court ruled that our domestic training and U.S.-based programs fell under more traditional wage and hour regulations, we immediately adjusted our pay practices.
"Our leaders are incredibly loyal to to ARCC, which is why many of them return to work with us year after year, and I'm delighted they will get to participate in this settlement."
The settlement was approved last week by a federal judge in San Francisco.
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