Federal judge denies motion to remand workers' class action suit against MetLife to state court

By Gabriel Neves | Feb 14, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO – Three California residents who worked for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and filed a class-action against MetLife for several labor law violations recently lost their bid to have the case moved back to state court.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Rogers, on the bench of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, issued a nine-page ruling on Feb. 7 denying a motion to remand the lawsuit filed by Tillman Pugh, Margaret Sulkowski and David Henderson.

The three plaintiffs sued MetLife for "failure to reimburse expenses and/or prohibited case bond; prohibited wage chargebacks; unlawful failure to provide itemized wage statements; unlawful failure to pay wages on termination; unlawful underpayment of wages; and unlawful untimely payment of wages in violation of the California Labor Code and the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), as well as unfair business practices in violation of the California Unfair Competition Law (UCL)," the ruling said.

Pugh, Sulkowski, and Henderson, who worked as financial services representatives (FSR), claimed MetLife treated those workers as "statutory employees" or independent contractors, not paying proper or penalty wages, making improper pay deductions and failing to reimburse their expenses.

They filed their suit in Alameda County Superior Court in January 2018, court filings said. The defendants then filed a motion to remove the case to district court two months later, alleging that the amount sought in the suit was greater  than $5 million, which qualified as a class action lawsuit.

"The court held a case management conference in this action on May 7, 2018, and subsequently issued a case management and pretrial order," court filings said. "On Jan. 7, 2019, plaintiffs filed the instant motion for remand citing an amount in controversy below $5,000,000 as the basis thereof. In support of their motion, plaintiffs argue that that defendants’ calculation of just over $9 million relies on a number of invalid assumptions and is, therefore, inaccurate," the ruling said.

The estimated amount that was set in the motion was $3,323,632.84.

In her ruling, Rogers stated that "because ... the amount in controversy is at least $7,668,501.58, which exceeds the $5 million threshold under CAFA (Class Action Fairness Act), the court denies plaintiffs’ motion to remand."

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