Our class action attorneys prosecute class and collective actions on behalf of employees, consumers, investors, and other individuals against defendants ranging from small local businesses to Fortune 500 companies. The team includes Washington attorneys Beth Terrell, Toby Marshall, Jennifer Rust Murray, Mary Reiten, Marc Cote, Erika Nusser, Whitney Stark, and Sam Strauss. Ms. Terrell and Ms. Murray are also licensed in California and Oregon, respectively, and all of the attorneys work with co-counsel across the country to vindicate their clients’ rights.
Our attorneys bring years of experience prosecuting wage and hour class actions and collective actions and have a proven track record of vindicating employees’ rights through the class and collective action process. Employment cases can be complex and you need attorneys with experience and knowledge of the law. Ms. Terrell, Mr. Marshall and Ms. Murray have been extraordinarily successful not only in certifying wage and hour class actions and collective actions but also seeing them through settlement, trial, and appeal.
Overtime and Minimum Wage Violations
Non-exempt employees must typically be paid minimum wages consistent with federal and state law, and also overtime pay in the amount of one-and-a-half times the normal hourly rate for any hours worked in excess of 40 in a work week. Non-exempt employees who are not paid minimum wages or overtime pay may have a claim against their employer. Through class and collective actions, we have successfully recovered minimum wage and overtime pay for thousands of workers, including retail employees, cable and satellite dish technicians, drywall installers, glass manufacturers, and janitors. In 2010, we obtained a judgment in excess of 4.17 million dollars on behalf of 325 drywall workers who alleged Precision Drywall and its officers failed to pay them for overtime work and made unlawful deductions to their pay. We served as lead counsel throughout the case, including trial, and successfully defended judgment on appeal.
Rest and Meal Breaks
Washington law protects the health and safety of its workforce by requiring employers to provide non-exempt employees with two 10-minute rest periods per four-hour shift and one 30-minute meal period every five hours worked. A class action is often the most effective way to vindicate the rights of employees who have not been allowed adequate breaks. At TMDW, our attorneys have extensive experience litigating rest and meal break claims, and successfully negotiating multi-million dollar settlements on behalf of thousands of employees. In July 2009, after seven years of litigation, we obtained a 35 million dollar settlement on behalf of 88,000 Wal-Mart employees whose claims included rest and meal break violations.
Lawsuits and class actions over paid vacation benefits are increasing across the United States. These disputes often arise when employers fail to honor vacation pay policies they have implemented, depriving employees of promised compensation in violation of wage and hour laws. In 2009, TMDW attorney Toby Marshall obtained an arbitration award in excess of $2.6 million on behalf of 500 employees deprived of earned vacation benefits. Mr. Marshall acted as co-lead class counsel throughout litigation and successfully defended the award on appeal. See McGinnity v. AutoNation, Inc., 149 Wn. App. 277, 202 P.3d 1009 (2009).
The protections of wage and hour statutes apply to all employees except those specifically excluded by the legislature or congress. A bona fide independent contractor does not fall under the protections of the wage and hour laws because the contractor is not “employed” by an employer. However, an employer cannot avoid complying with wage and hour laws by merely referring to someone as an “independent contractor”. An employer also cannot avoid wage and hour compliance by classifying an employee as “exempt” from wage and hour laws when the employee’s job duties indicate the person is non-exempt. Our attorneys have successfully litigated and settled class actions on behalf of employees who have been misclassified either as independent contractors or as “exempt” from the wage and hour laws. Our successes include a multi-million dollar settlement against a major telecommunications company.
Consumer protection statues are powerful tools for protecting individual consumer rights. These statutes provide potential remedies to individuals injured by conduct ranging from bad faith by insurers to deceptive marketing by corporations to the manufacturing and sale of defective products. The policy behind state consumer protection statutes, including Washington’s Consumer Protection Act, favors liberal construction in order to protect the public from unfair and deceptive practices by both deterring such conduct and providing individuals with remedies when they are injured by such conduct. Our class action attorneys have fought for consumers’ rights, combating various types of consumer fraud, challenging companies who sell products that are unsafe or don’t work, and pursuing relief for consumers who have received unlawful “robocalls.”
Debt adjusting is the activity of managing, counseling, settling, adjusting, prorating, or liquidating the indebtedness of a debtor. Washington’s Debt Adjusting Act (“DAA”) limits the fees that a debt adjuster may charge for debt adjusting services. Companies have devised various schemes for getting around the fee limits many of which may violate the DAA and Washington’s CPA. We are currently litigating several cases against debt adjusting companies, including Legal Helpers Debt Resolution LLC, Legal Services Support Group, JEM Group, Inc., Marshall Banks, LLC, Consumer Law Associates LLC, Persels & Associates LLC, and CDS Client Services, Inc. Consumers who have entered into an agreement with one of these or any other debt adjusting company should contact us to evaluate whether they have a claim for damages.
The Washington legislature and Congress have enacted statutes to protect consumers from commercial telephone solicitation by use of an automatic dialing and announcing device (“ADAD”). Often these telephone calls are referred to as “robocalls.” Our class action lawyers have substantial experience pursuing claims on behalf of consumers who have received unlawful “robocalls.” We are currently litigating robocalling cases against defendants such as Sallie Mae, Best Buy, Bank of America, Comcast, ER Solutions and Discover Bank. We have negotiated favorable settlements in robocalling cases against Sallie Mae and Comcast, creating common funds of $24 million and $3.8 million respectively.
Defective/Unsafe Product Cases
At TMDW, we represent consumers who have purchased products that are unreasonably dangerous or don’t live up to what companies have said about them. Our class action attorneys are experts in prosecuting cases on behalf of homeowners against manufacturers of defective building products such as siding, roofing, and plumbing systems. We also have substantial experience litigating against automobile manufacturers. Recently, we were instrumental in achieving a settlement with Toyota that provided a warranty extension and reimbursement of prior repairs for both past and present owners. To date Toyota has reimbursed owners almost $10,000,000 and provided repairs valued at $25,000,000.
Early Termination Fees
In recent years, telecommunications companies have engaged in a practice in which they fail to disclose that they will charge a substantial “early termination fee” when consumers cancel a service before the end of a purported contractual commitment to subscribe for a defined period of time. We have successfully represented consumers who allege that such practices are unfair and deceptive and thus violate consumer protection statutes.
Title Insurance Overcharge Cases
We are currently litigating several class action lawsuits against title insurance companies on behalf of consumers who allege they were overcharged for title insurance during refinance transactions. Defendants include First American Title Insurance Company, Inc. and Fidelity National Title Insurance Company.
Consumer fraud generally occurs when a consumer buys a product that does not perform as advertised or purchases services that are not the same as they were represented to be. However, as the Washington Supreme Court has said, “It is impossible to frame definitions which embrace all unfair practices. There is no limit to human inventiveness in this field.” Our class action attorneys have substantial experience identifying deceptive acts and practices that are actionable under relevant consumer protection statutes. For example, we successfully settled a class action against T-Mobile, Inc. brought on behalf of consumers who participated in a promotional program known as “FLY FREE in ’08.” Despite having satisfied the terms of the offer, Plaintiff and other members of the class never received the free round-trip flight that T-Mobile promised. Our class action attorneys also were instrumental in successfully certifying and settling a class action on behalf of consumers who alleged that Microsoft and Best Buy conspired to subscribe Best Buy customers for www.msn.com and charge them a monthly fee without informing them first.
At TMDW, our class action experience is not limited to the employment and consumer arenas. Our class action attorneys have successfully represented clients in securities fraud cases as well as actions brought on behalf of women who had been sexually abused by health care professionals. Recently, we pursued a class action against two cities in Washington for failing to provide adequate legal representation to indigent citizens. In December 2013, the US District Court ruled that the cities had failed to provide adequate defense services to indigent defendants. The Court found indigent defendants in those Cities have had “virtually no relationship with their assigned counsel and could not fairly be said to have been ‘represented’ by them at all.”