Posted June 16th, 2017.
By Dorothy Atkins
Law360, San Jose (June 16, 2017, 2:52 PM EDT) — A California judge on Friday preliminarily approved Google Inc. and staffing agency’s UrpanTech’s deal paying a combined $5.5 million to resolve a putative class action alleging the companies failed to pay contract recruiters overtime, saying the class notice needs to be tweaked, but overall it is a good settlement.
During a hearing in San Jose, Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Brian C. Walsh said he would adopt his tentative ruling approving the deal, after he tweaks the language in the notice. As it is, the notice wrongly suggests that class members must submit a written objection if they plan to attend a final fairness hearing on Nov. 17 to protest the deal, the judge said.
“If you show up at the hearing, you can object even if you haven’t submitted an objection,” he said.
If approved, the deal would mark an end to a putative class action launched by lead plaintiff Tymuoi Ha after she received a one-year contract to work for Google as a
contract recruiter through Urpan Technologies Inc., a staffing agency based in Silicon Valley.
But once hired, Ha was allegedly instructed not to report more than a certain capped amount of overtime, even though she regularly worked 12 or more hours in a workday and worked on weekends.
In January 2014, Ha complained to her manager at Google about not receiving overtime pay, but her manager allegedly told her there was nothing he could do, the suit says. Ha was then contacted by her manager’s boss at Google, who told her that her complaint was inappropriate and she needed to apologize. Shortly after, she was fired, the suit says.
Ha filed suit in January 2016 on behalf of herself and other contract recruiters. The suit alleges Google’s policy was to restrict the amount of overtime paid to individual contract recruiters, regardless of the amount of overtime they worked.
According to the complaint, contract recruiters are employees of both UrpanTech and Google, which controlled their wages, hours and working conditions. The contract recruiters allegedly work alongside Google employees and perform the same work. They are also supervised by Google managers, and are subject to Google’s policies, the suit says. The complaint also notes that Google determines overtime payments, even though UrpanTech issues paychecks.
The suit sought up to $17 million in unpaid overtime and it alleged the companies violated multiple state labor and business statutes. It also asserted individual claims by Ha for wrongful termination and retaliation and a class claim for violating the Private Attorneys General Act.
After conducting discovery and entering mediation, the parties reached the proposed $5.5 million settlement in March that would resolve class claims, but leave Ha’s individual claims unresolved.
Under the deal, the companies would make a $75,000 payment to the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency to account for the PAGA claim, and class attorneys would receive approximately $1.8 million for fees and expenses.
That would leave approximately $3.48 million to be distributed to class members based on their weeks worked and billing rates during the class period, resulting in an average recovery of $4,380 for each of the 795 members of the class, according to court documents.
During a hearing on a motion for preliminary settlement approval on Friday, Judge Walsh said multiple times that it was a good settlement for the class.
Michael Douglas Palmer of Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP, who represents the recruiters, told Judge Walsh that he had caught a few minor typos in the notice and he asked the judge for permission to modify it.
Judge Walsh asked Palmer to submit a version of the notice with his requested alterations. The judge added that he wants the notice to be more clear about how class members can object to the deal. After a short debate over the notice’s precise language, the judge said he would make the changes.
“Let me tweak it,” the judge said. “There’s no sense in doing this by committee.”
The recruiters are represented by Michael Douglas Palmer and Xinying Valerian of Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP
Google is represented by Thomas E. Geidt of Grube Brown & Geidt LLP. UrpanTech is represented by Marquis Owens.
The case is case number Tymuoi Ha et al. v. Google Inc. et al., case number 16CV290847, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Santa Clara.
–Editing by Stephen Berg.