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July 10th, 2012

Overtime and the Overly Litigious

This week, a wave of frivolous employment wage disputes has swept across the country.  In just the last year roughly 7,000 lawsuits alleging wage and hour violations have been filed in federal court, and such cases have risen 400 percent over the last 11 years.

First in Staten Island, New York, a son is suing his father for failure to pay him overtime at the family’s ice cream business, Ice Cream & Ice House.  The family seems dysfunctional at the least.  Nicholas Piazza, is claiming he occasionally worked 80 hours a week and only earned $10 an hour, and his stepmother Patricia alleges that he “bought an ice-cream truck and then he lied to all our customers.”

Then on July 6, 2012, a judge in the Northern District of California ruled that a class action could proceed, led by a plaintiff who claims that Office Depot failed to pay him a whopping $0.23 in overtime wages.  As first reported by Litigation Daily, Howard David Provine filed a class action lawsuit in January of 2011, alleging that his former employer failed to account for the two $50 awards he won from store managers through the company’s “Bravo” program when calculating his payment for 19 minutes of overtime.  The suit also claims that Office Depot owes Provine up to $2,000 in “waiting time penalties” for failing to pay the extra overtime when he left the company.

In what has become a frightening trend in California, Judge Susan Illston seems to have lost all common sense.  By failing to grant the defendant’s motion for summary judgment and instead certifying the class, she is condoning ridiculous behavior and endorsing lawsuit abuse.  Office Depot defended its actions by asserting that companies are not required by state or federal law to factor discretionary bonus payments into overtime calculations.  The company further argued that Provine’s claims are de minimus in any case.  The judge disagreed and followed her own unfathomable logic that a random prize drawing did not constitute a discretionary payment.  As a result, Office Depot will be forced to spend a whole lot more than $0.23 to defend itself against this frivolous claim.

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