"BofA Settles Appraisers' Overtime Suit for $36M"

Courthouse News Service, August 26, 2015  (link)

By William Dotinga

Bank of America will pay $36 million to settle a class action involving real estate appraisers who claim they were misclassified as exempt from overtime, class attorneys said Wednesday.

The class action, filed in Federal Court in April 2013, involves 365 current and former employees working as residential real estate appraisers for Bank of America subsidiary Landsafe Appraisal Services.

According to the plaintiffs, the bank erroneously applied administrative and professional exemptions to the residential staff appraisers - a job that requires no special academic degree, just a state license. The misclassifications kept them from being paid overtime, the appraisers say.

One of the named plaintiffs who worked for Landsafe until 2012 said she worked from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. and rarely had time for lunch or breaks because of "artificially short deadlines set by Bank of America," according to a statement by Bryan Schwartz Law, the firm representing the class.

The firm's founder Bryan Schwartz said he hopes the proposed settlement will "change the playing field" for other misclassified employees.

"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," Schwartz said. "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."

The unopposed motion for preliminary approval of the settlement calls for Bank of America $36 million into a common fund. Of that sum, Schwartz and LA-based co-counsel Schonbrun Desimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman will get $12 million if U.S. District Judge David Carter signs off on the deal.

Each of the 365 class members will net an average of $64,537 after other costs and fees are paid, according to the motion.

The bank has also agreed to reclassify its in-house staff appraisers as nonexempt employees if a planned sale of Landsafe to CoreLogic doesn't go through, the motion says.

In 2014, Schwartz and his co-counsel settled another portion of the case - involving review appraisers - for $5.8 million.

"Employers take grave risks by cutting corners, and not fairly compensating their employees in tune with state and federal law," Schwartz said. "My firm and many others, including my co-counsel, are working to end wage theft in the economy - quickly."

Carter will consider the motion for preliminary approval of the settlement at a hearing slated for Sept. 21.