April 9, 2014, Oakland - Oakland-based Bryan Schwartz Law and the Southern California firm of Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP jointly announced today that Bank of America agreed to a partial settlement of the class action filed by the firms last year against the banking giant on behalf of in-house residential appraisers and their reviewers throughout the county.
In Boyd, et al. v. Bank of America, et al., Case No. 13-00561, pending in federal court in Orange County, the plaintiffs alleged that Bank of America and its appraisal subsidiary, Landsafe, misclassified as exempt from overtime residential appraisers who produce tens of thousands of appraisal reports monthly to accompany every home loan and re-fi sold by the bank. The suit also alleges misclassification as to the review appraisers who proofread the appraisals for accuracy and compliance with company and regulatory guidelines. The suit asserts that appraisers work very long hours - often over 60 hours a week - with few lunch or rest breaks, and with no additional compensation for their long hours each day and week.
The bank has claimed that its appraisers are exempt employees who are not entitled to overtime and breaks either because the employees are company administrators, or because they are learned professionals. The employees have contended that the administrative exemption only applies to those deciding the company's overall policies, not those producing Landsafe's appraisal products for Bank of America by the thousands. The workers have further argued that the learned professional exemption relates to occupations where an advanced degree or prolonged course of academic study is required - not applicable to appraisers, who principally learn their craft on the job and can obtain their jobs with only a high school diploma, once they get certified after an apprenticeship and several weeks worth of classes.
According to the settlement terms, Bank of America has agreed to reclassify all of its Review Appraisers nationwide as non-exempt by the end of this year. The Review Appraisers will also share in $5.8 million settlement, which includes costs and attorneys fees, to compensate them for unpaid overtime and break premiums since 2009. Though the individual shares for each Review Appraiser have not yet been calculated, it is anticipated that the settlement if approved by the Court will pay them on average over $10,000 each in 2014, after final Court approval and barring any appeals. The parties requested preliminary court approval of the settlement yesterday.
"We are pleased with this result, which provides fair compensation to the class while helping to reform Bank of America's practices going forward," said Bryan Schwartz, one of the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs. "We plan to keep fighting for an excellent result for the Staff Appraiser group," he emphasized.
Last month, court-approved notice was mailed to over 650 Staff Appraisers advising them of their right under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act to join the lawsuit. The notice advises these current and former in-house Staff Appraisers that they have until June 3, 2014to join the collective action case. According to Wilmer Harris, another attorney for the plaintiffs, the parties are continuing to fight about class certification for all California Staff Appraisers, with the Court set to decide the question in May 2014.
Bryan Schwartz Law is located at 1330 Broadway, Suite 1630, Oakland, CA 94612. The telephone number is (510) 444-9300.
Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman's South Pasadena office is located at 715 Fremont Avenue, Ste. A, S. Pasadena, CA 91030. The telephone number is (626) 441-4129. The firm's Venice office is located at 723 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA 90291. The phone number is (310) 396-0731.
If you are or were a Bank of America Review Appraiser seeking more information about the settlement, click here.