Carrie Salls Sep. 2, 2016, 8:22pm

RIVERSIDE – A federal court has ruled that a lawsuit filed on behalf of non-exempt hourly employees working in California for Alpha Respiratory Inc. and Lincare Inc. should be able to proceed as a class action. The lawsuit seeks payment of back overtime wages and premiums for alleged missed meal breaks.  

Lincare, through head of public affairs Jeanne Forbis, pointed out that no actual ruling has been made regarding the actual lawsuit.


“The court in California hearing the case has not formed any opinion concerning the merits of the case or any claims asserted therein,” Forbis told the Northern California Record.


The ruling, made on Aug. 10 by Judge Morrison England of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, covers non-exempt hourly employees who worked for the two companies in California since Oct. 21, 2010.


Nicholas J. DeBlouw of Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik, which is representing the plaintiffs in the case, said he will let the lawsuit and order speak for itself.


“The case will now proceed on a class-wide basis, per the court’s order,” DeBlouw told the Northern California Record.


The class-action lawsuit was originally filed by the Riverside Labor Law Lawyers at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik in October 2014, alleging that the health care service companies failed to pay their California hourly employees overtime wages and failed to provide the legally mandated meal and rest breaks and accurate wage statements as required by California law.


In the original complaint, plaintiff Christina Culley claimed that the companies failed to include non-discretionary incentive pay into her overtime calculations and also allegedly failed to pay her meal break premiums when she was not provided a 30-minute meal break prior to her fifth hour of work as required by California Labor Code.


In the ruling, England said the plaintiff established that there are “questions of law and fact common to the classes.” England said the common policies and procedures identified by Culley include the defendants’ policy of failing to include bonuses in overtime payments, their policy of failing to set a specific time period for meal periods and failing to pay premium wages for “untimely meal periods” and their policy of failing to pay reporting time wages.


The judge said “proof includes, however, pay records, defendants’ on-call policy and representative employee declarations describing on-call job duties.”


According to the order, the plaintiffs have enough members to constitute a class because the defendants employed 57 workers during the class period in question, and the subclass for the plaintiffs’ reporting claim includes 45 employees.


“Lincare intends to continue defending this matter,” Lincare said through Forbis.


Under California law, DeBlouw said, “if there’s any settlement, there’s an affirmative opt-out procedure.”


In addition, DeBlouw said it is important for all California workers, whether they are independent contractors or employees, to know they can recoup losses. He said many people just focus on employment-related lawsuits filed in connection with discrimination or wrongful termination.


“It’s good to be sure, whether an employee or independent contractor, that you’re pursuing all of the remedies available,” DeBlouw said.

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