WorkingRE, August 27, 2015
Settlement Covers 365 Plaintiffs Who Served as Residential Real Estate Appraisers
Oakland, CA – Today, employment and civil rights attorney Bryan Schwartz announced a settlement between Landsafe Appraisal Services, Inc., a subsidiary of Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) and 365 current and former employees working as residential real estate staff appraisers. The plaintiffs had sought damages for their misclassification as exempt from overtime, which left them working long hours, day in and day out, without additional compensation. Plaintiffs are seeking preliminary court approval in September 2015.
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. 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 the 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 have seen over and over again across the economy that employees are misclassified, depriving them of overtime compensation, when under state and federal law they are due the wages," said Bryan Schwartz, founder of Bryan Schwartz Law, lead counsel for the 365 class members, along with the Los Angeles-based firm of Schonbrun Desimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman. "These individuals worked hard, generated thousands of reports a month for the employer to sell mortgages, and were not compensated for their efforts as the law requires. We hope this settlement helps change the playing field for these and many other employees nationwide," Attorney Bryan Schwartz added.
Judge David O. 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 (See Court Certifies Class and Approves Nationwide Class Settlement for Review Appraisers). 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 (See Appraisers Entitled to Overtime, Court Holds). The bank asked the Court for permission to appeal the summary judgment decision immediately, denying any wrongdoing. The case was set to go to trial on August 31, but the $36 million settlement, if and when approved by the Court, resolves all claims.
For Attorney Schwartz, this is just one of many recent out-of-court 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 Plaintiffs are seeking the Court's preliminary approval of the settlement in September, and hope to have the Court's final sign-off so class members will receive their payments within the next several months.
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.