Posted March 23rd, 2018.
By Rick Archer
Law360 (March 23, 2018, 6:08 PM EDT) — A New York federal judge on Thursday granted class certification to a group of MetLife claims specialists who allege the company misclassified their jobs to duck having to pay them and hundreds of other workers $50 million in overtime.
U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan granted conditional certification to a group of long-term disability claims specialists who allege MetLife wrongly reclassified them as overtime-exempt workers five years ago.
Debra Julian and Stephanie McKinney said MetLife classified LTD claims specialists as hourly workers and paid overtime until 2013, when they were reclassified as management and denied overtime. They argued this classification is wrong, saying they are not supervisors and that their job responsibilities are to gather information from people receiving long-term disability benefits under MetLife policies to pass along to more specialized employees for any claims decisions.
“To the extent that class members have any decision-making authority, it is severely limited,” they said in their complaint. “Further, LTD claims specialists have no discretion with respect to matters of significance.”
The plaintiffs said they are seeking $50 million on behalf of “hundreds” of workers.
MetLife disputed that description of the job, arguing the claims specialists do make significant decisions regarding a benefit recipient’s ability to work, and therefore eligibility for their benefits.
It argued against class certification on the grounds that in deposition, Julian and McKinney had disagreed on their job responsibilities and that both also disagreed with the written description of the position, and so had failed to establish a similar situation with other claims specialists.
“These inconsistencies guarantee that a multi-witness mini-trial will be needed to determine exactly what duties McKinney herself did and did not perform,” MetLife said.
In response, the pair argued the differences between Julian’s and McKinney’s descriptions were minor, and that they only disputed portions of the job description, saying the existence of a uniform job description actually supported the argument a class exists.
“Judge Nathan’s conditional certification is a welcome first step in addressing MetLife’s flagrant compensation practices,” plaintiffs’ counsel Michael Palmer said in a news release Friday.
Counsel for MetLife did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The plaintiffs are represented by Michael D. Palmer, Jeremy Heisler, Andrew Melzer, David Tracey and Melinda Koster of Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP and Michael R. DiChiara of Krakower DiChiara LLC.
MetLife is represented by Christopher A. Parlo and Melissa C. Rodriguez of Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP.
The case is Debra Julian et. al. v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., case number 1:17-cv-00957, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
–Editing by Catherine Sum.