Bisnar Chase Vs. Orange Coast Plumbing Incorporated Lawsuit
Orange Coast Plumbing, Inc. Violated California Law by Deducting The Cost to Maintain Its Uniforms From The Weekly Wages of Its Hourly Employees And Forced Them to Sign Releases in an Attempt to Prevent Them From Being Able to Recover These Wages
In this time and age, you would think that most employers have become more sophisticated and aware of their legal obligations, especially in light of all the employment lawsuits that have arisen in the last decade to enforce compliance with the California Labor Code and Wage Orders. But that is not the case. Some employers continue to ignore and skirt around the law to gain an economic advantage over law abiding competitors. One such employer is Orange Coast Plumbing, Inc.
Orange Coast is a corporation and is in the business of providing residential and commercial plumbing, and Heating Ventilation and Air-Conditioning ("HVAC") services. Touting itself as "the premier residential and commercial plumbing and heating company in Southern California since 1977," Orange Coast operates its business from its facility located on 1506 North Clinton Street, Santa Ana, CA 92703.
Orange Coast employs both plumbers and HVAC technicians to respond to service calls 24 hours, seven days a week. Orange Coast's owner rules with an iron fist and employs archaic rules that are in direct contravention with California law. Among the many violations, one specifically stands out. In its Employee Handbook, Orange Coast says that it will deduct the cost to maintain its uniforms from the weekly wages of its employees - regardless of whether the employees clean their uniforms themselves. Not only did it say it would, it actually did and continued this practice from at least September 2007 to April 2012. Orange Coast deducted between $6.25 to $6.60 from the wages of its service technicians on a weekly basis. During that time period, Orange Coast employed about 50 service technicians.
Why did Orange Coast stop its illegal practice in April 2012? Because former employees thought what Orange Coast was doing was wrong and wanted to correct it.
In September 2011, Bisnar Chase, on behalf of these former employees, filed a class action lawsuit against Orange Coast for unpaid overtime, meal and rest break violations, unlawful deduction of wages, and violations of Business & Professional Code § 17200 [the Unfair Competition Law ("UCL")] and the Private Attorneys General Act (the "PAGA").
Just four months after the complaint was filed, on January 11, 2012, at about 6:30 a.m., Orange Coast paged all of its service technicians and required them to attend a mandatory meeting. The bookkeeper, Lore Kramer, and the brothers of the owner of Orange Coast, Morgan Flynn and Joe Flynn were present and conducted the meeting. Lore and the Flynn brothers stood in front of the room. Approximately 30 service technicians were present.
Lore began by explaining that the topic of the meeting was regarding the class action complaint brought by former employees. Within 30 seconds after Lore started speaking, Morgan interrupted with profanities and negative comments about the complaint and the plaintiffs. Lore told the service technicians that if they signed a release, Orange Coast will give them $250. The release allegedly prohibits the service technicians from recovering back wages for the unlawful deductions, overtime, and premium pay for having to work through their lunches and breaks.
Two of the plumbing technicians who were present asked what the $250 was for. Morgan replied by saying that "John's lawyer said that we have to give you this money for this to be legal."
Throughout the entire meeting, Morgan and Joe kept repeating that"If you don't sign these papers, then you are with them. If you sign these papers, then we know that you are with us!" After their speeches, Morgan and Joe passed out a single page settlement agreement for the service technicians to sign. Morgan and Joe hovered behind the service technicians to ensure that each settlement agreement was signed. Neither Lore, Morgan nor Joe told any of the service technicians that they could consult with an attorney before signing the settlement agreement or take time to review and deliberate about signing the release. After the settlement agreements were signed, the Flynn brothers picked them up from the service technicians and none of the service technicians were given a copy.
Would you consider the circumstances in which the service technicians sign the release voluntary or uncoerced?
"There are a number of violations displayed within Orange Coast's own polices and records. California employees and employers are fortunate to have a state which provides them the mechanism to equalize the playing field against those employers who try to take advantage of their work force and skirt around the law. We hope to provide businesses with additional reasons to promote fair, lawful work environments for the people that work for them," says Mr. Beligan.
About Bisnar Chase Wage and Hour Attorneys
Bisnar Chase attorneys assist those seeking counsel for wage and hour, wrongful termination, breach of contract, overtime pay, and disability discrimination claims. The Bisnar Chase law firm has been assisting victims since 1978 and have sustained a 97.5% success rate.