G&A WINS OVER HALF A MILLION in AWARDS from CA Labor Commissioner for Three Phillips 66 Employees
Goyette & Associates (G&A) complex litigation and wage & hour attorney Gary Goyette represented three individuals who worked for Phillips 66 at the refinery in Santa Maria, California on their wage claims filed with the CA Labor Commissioner. The wage claims were filed based on alleged misclassification of these employees by Phillips as salaried, exempt (as opposed to non-exempt, hourly) employees. This dispute was heard by the Labor Commissioner last November.
At the hearing testimony and documents were entered into the record to establish that in their positions as Safety & Emergency Response Specialists (S&ER Specialists) mostly involved performing manual tasks set forth on daily ‘Kardex’ check lists which were determined by their supervisors or other management at Phillips. Testimony by a former co-worker confirmed the rote nature of the majority of their work, that any special projects or emergency incidents which involved some degree of judgment on their part made up only a small percentage of their work, and that the majority of the work they performed was now performed by other non-exempt, hourly Phillips employees at the refinery.
In late May the decision by the Labor Commissioner was finally issued and received: over half a million in monetary damages was awarded in total to the three claimants, based on the Hearing Officer finding that Phillips had misclassified them as salaried, exempt employees. Therefore as non-exempt hourly employees they were owed overtime pay for all scheduled hours worked in excess of eight hours per day, for additional ‘off-the-clock’ work required by Phillips before and after their scheduled shifts, and for missed meal periods since they were not allowed to leave the refinery site and did not receive ‘second’ meal periods after performing 10 hours of work. Other associated monetary damages were also awarded.
Phillips, predictably, did not pay these awards but has posted a bond for the half-million plus award and has appealed the Labor Commissioner decisions to the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court, where the claims will be heard in a bench trial by a Judge. Since the proceeding is a ‘de novo’ trial, the Labor Commissioner’s decisions cannot be cited, and essentially the claims are heard as a new case – – the only difference being that if G&A recovers any amounts for the claimants, Phillips must then pay for G&A’s attorneys’ fees and costs for the appeal. Gary Goyette will aggressively litigate these claims to have an even a greater amount of testimony and documentary evidence entered into the record so the Superior Court judge can come to the same conclusion as the Labor Commissioner: the work performed was mostly rote, manual tasks following daily checklists dictated by Phillips management, such that any salaried, exempt classification was incorrect.