"BoA Subsidiary and Appraisers Get Final OK For $5.8 Million Deal to Settle Wage Claims"

Bloomberg BNA, Daily Labor Report, Wage & Hour, November 21, 2014

by Lisa Nagel

A federal judge in California Nov. 18 granted final approval to a $5.8 million agreement settling claims of 353 review appraisers who said they were misclassified as exempt employees and due overtime wages (Boyd v. Bank of Am. Corp., 2014 BL 328511, C.D. Cal., No. 8:13-cv-00561, settlement approved 11/18/14).

The review appraisers claimed they worked for Bank of America Corp. subsidiary LandSafe Inc. in excess of 60 hours per week without receiving overtime wages towhich they were entitled under the Fair Labor Standards Act or California law. The agreement covers California and nationwide claimants employed by the company from April 2009 or April 2010, respectively, through the June 23, 2014, preliminary approval date (124 DLR A-2, 6/27/14).

Judge David O. Carter of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California found that the average recovery of $10,840 per class member and the ''impressive'' $30,000 recovery for claimants who worked the full class period was more than fair. The case is still proceeding for a separate group of residential appraisers who also claim they were misclassified and are due overtime wages (125 DLR A-2, 6/30/14). 

The settlement provides for approximately $1.93 million in attorneys' fees, $30,000 in litigation costs, a $15,000 enhancement payment to class representative Victor Galaz, $20,000 to the claims administrator and $18,750 in penalties under the California Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act.

''We appreciate the Court's recognition of this fine result for the review appraisers, and look forward to a successful outcome for the in-house staff appraisers, whose claims we are still fighting to vindicate,'' class counsel Bryan Schwartz said in a Nov. 20 statement.

Defense counsel didn't immediately respond to Bloomberg BNA's Nov. 21 request for comment.

Uncertainty Makes Settlement 'Advantageous.' 
The claimants argued that Bank of America wouldn't be able to meet its burden of showing class members were appropriately classified as exempt from overtime under the FLSA or California law.

However, the company contended that licensing requirements bring the appraisers under the professional exemp

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit hasn't ruled on the classification of real estate appraisers, Carter noted, but it has determined that other appraisers are exempt from overtime wages.

"A s such, significant uncertainties and risks exist, making settlement advantageous at this juncture,'' Carter said.

Most in Class Support Settlement.
According to the court, class members received notice informing them of
the method used to calculate their work-week totals based on company records, the minimum settlement amount they would receive if they opted in and the steps they could take if they thought the total was inaccurate.

More than 95 percent of the review appraisers covered by the settlement chose to accept the agreement, and no class members objected or opted out.

This was a remarkable result, Carter said, considering the various reasons class members may elect to opt out.

''An absence of any opposition to the proposed settlement reflects very positively on its fairness,'' Carter found.

In addition to Bryan Schwartz Law, Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP represented the appraisers. McGuireWoods LLP represented Bank of America.


Contact the reporter on this story:
Lisa Nagele in Washington lnagele@bna.com

Contact the editor responsible for this story: 
Susan J. McGolrick smcgolrick@bna.com

Text of the order is available here.

Copyright 2014, The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.