Court Approves Approximately $1 Million In Relief For Dozens Of Misclassified Samsonite Store Managers In Bryan Schwartz Law's Settlement Of Wage/Hour Class/Collective Action
April 9, 2010, San Francisco – The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Hon. Jeffrey S. White, granted final approval of a settlement agreement negotiated by Bryan Schwartz Law, in which more than 80 current and former Samsonite Store Managers collected approximately $1 million, pocketing on average nearly $8,300 each in back wages, interest, and penalties.
The case, Pearson, et al., v. Samsonite Company Stores, Inc., et al., Civ. No. 09-1263, was first filed just over a year ago, alleging that Samsonite's retail and outlet stores in the United States improperly employed Store Managers without paying them overtime and other compensation to which they were due under federal law (the Fair Labor Standards Act), as well as the laws of California and New York. The suit contended that the employees were improperly classified as "exempt" from overtime based on being "executives," but that they did not meet the tests for establishing this exemption under the federal and state laws.
During the course of the litigation of the case, the lead Defendant, Samsonite Company Stores, Inc., declared bankruptcy. Discovery also revealed that, although Samsonite continued to deny liability, many of the Store Managers were paid varying sums previously in a company settlement with the Bush Administration's Department of Labor, or were paid amounts in company attempts to pursue waivers from individual members of the class before it was certified by the Court. Samsonite also reclassified all of its Store Managers as non-exempt and started paying them overtime. Moreover, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which oversees the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, along with at least one judge in the Northern District, recently issued decisions making class certification in wage/hour, misclassification cases much more difficult.
"Though we had a lot of obstacles, we were able to obtain an exceptional result for the class – after the Bush Administration investigated the matter but basically let the company off the hook," said Bryan Schwartz, Plaintiffs' class counsel, following the Court's approval of the settlement. "The proof is in the pudding," he continued, pointing out that a very high percentage, almost 90%, of the class members affirmatively filed claim forms, opting to accept the settlement, with "not a single class member rejecting the deal."
Schwartz explained that, as a result of the case, the company has paid or will pay Store Managers $966,251.08, plus the employer's share of payroll taxes on the back wages, minus appropriate attorneys' fees and costs. "And, all Store Managers are now and will hereafter be paid overtime at Samsonite – something of which we are very proud."
Rosalie "Lee" Pearson (a former Samsonite Store Manager in San Francisco) was one of two representative plaintiffs in the matter, who first brought the case to Schwartz's attention. She reacted emotionally to the Court's approval of the settlement, saying, "I am pleased that, because we stepped forward, no one else at this company will suffer like I did." She concluded, "It just goes to show that sometimes our system of justice works – if you have the right attorneys on your side!"