"BofA Settles Employment Lawsuit"

San Francisco Chronicle, August 26, 2015

By Kathleen Pender

Bank of America's appraisal subsidiary agreed to pay $36 million to settle a class-action suit alleging that it misclassified 365 current and former appraisers as exempt from overtime when they should have been eligible.

After attorney fees and expenses, the employees will receive an average of $60,000 to $65,000 each, making it one of the largest wage-and-hour settlements on a per-worker basis, said Bryan Schwartz, the Oakland attorney who represented the plaintiffs.

A study by Nera Economic Consulting said the median gross settlement in wage-and-hour cases since 2007 was $2,576 per plaintiff and the average was $5,742. And that's before attorney fees and expenses.

Schwartz filed the case in April 2013 in federal court in Orange County, alleging violations of state and federal labor laws. The class covers employees who worked for LandSafe Appraisal Services from 2009 through today in California and from 2010 in other states. About 186 of them are in California.

In the past, most employers treated appraisers as either exempt employees or independent contractors. In 2009, the federal appeals court in New York found that JPMorgan Chase should have been treating its mortgage underwriters as nonexempt workers.

That suggested that other mortgage-industry employees working on transactions, such as appraisers, should also be nonexempt, Schwartz said. Some companies, including Wells Fargo and Chase "took note of that and reclassified appraisers. BofA chose not to."

BofA is reportedly selling LandSafe Appraisal, which it acquired when it bought Countrywide Financial Corp. in 2008, to CoreLogic. "If the sale goes through, then I would hope and believe the acquiring company would" treat its appraisers as nonexempt, Schwartz said.

In an e-mail, BofA spokeswoman Jumana Bauwens said, "We continue to believe the past decision to classify staff appraisers, who are responsible for the analysis of each property, have assignments that clearly are professional in nature, and as such, the classification of these positions as exempt was appropriate. However, we agreed to settle to avoid further legal costs."