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
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,
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
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
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.