Coca Cola Settles California Unpaid Overtime Class Action

When an employee starts with a company, the employment agreement usually includes a certain number of paid sick and vacation days, in addition to salary and health care benefits. That constitutes a promise from the employer to provide that salary and those benefits to the employee. If the employee does not use all of her sick days or vacation days, she is still entitled to be compensated for them.

A recent class action wage and hour lawsuit filed against Coca-Cola in California, alleges that the soft drink company had a “use it or lose it” vacation policy, in which employees were not paid for any vacation time they did not take. According to the recent lawsuit, such practices are illegal under California labor law. Coca-Cola argues it has already revised its vacation policy and paid out all earned, unused vacation time dating back to 2008.

The lawsuit further alleges that Coca-Cola refused to pay employees for time spent driving between job sites during the day, including driving to the first job site of the day and driving home from the last job site of the day. According to the lawsuit, employees were driving Coca-Cola vans during these commutes.

Despite the fact that commute times are not compensated under most employment agreements, federal and state laws normally require employers to pay workers for commute time if the worker spends a significant amount of time during the work day traveling between work sites. Customer service representatives who spend much of their time traveling from one location to another to conduct repairs would definitely qualify for this type of compensation under the law. Depending on the situation, this can include commuting to the first site of the day and from the last site of the day.

Coca-Cola argued that employees were not required to drive Coca-Cola vans for those commutes. It also claimed it should not have to pay for those commutes because it does not exert “sufficient control” over employees during that time. However, the law is unconcerned with the amount of control exerted by the employer. Rather, the focus tends to be on whether the duties performed are required by the employer. Since traveling to a machine that cannot be serviced remotely is a necessary part of the customer service representative’s job, they should be paid for that time.

The lawsuit also alleges Coca-Cola made deductions from employees’ pay on a monthly basis for company-issued cell phones. Coca-Cola argued that the deductions were made with the employees’ consent and that they were made only for personal calls made on company-issued cell phones. The company insists that employees were able to opt out of the program.

Despite these arguments, Coca-Cola has agreed to settle the class action lawsuit for $750,000. The class covers current and former customer service technicians who responded to and repaired problems reported by Coca-Cola fountain soda machine customers. All told, the class consists of 86 class members who worked for the company between July 31, 2009 and the day the court approves the settlement. If a judge approves the settlement, Daniel Ambriz, the lead plaintiff in the class action lawsuit, will be awarded $10,000 as an incentive award for filing the lawsuit. After his award and attorneys’ costs and fees, each class member will receive about $7,500.The Chicago overtime lawyers at Nationwide Consumer Rights are investigating unpaid overtime claims against large retail chains such as Apple, Walgreen’s, CVS, Urban Outfitters, GAP, Abercrombie & Fitch, Limited, Forever 21, Macy’s, Target, JC Penney’s, Lowes, Marshalls, TJ Max, Victoria’s Secret, Nieman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Best Buy, Home Depot, Apple, Best Buy, Sears, K Mart, J.C Penney, Walmart and other retail chains for misclassifying employees as managers, erasing or altering time sheets or time records, pressuring workers not to report or record overtime, failing to pay for time spent on security checks, and otherwise failing to pay workers for overtime and other wages. If you are the victim this practice call us at 630-333-0333 or contact us online.

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