A California federal judge has given preliminary approval to a $2.42 million settlement, which would resolve two class action lawsuits alleging PetSmart Inc. had allegedly violated CA overtime laws.
According to Law360, the class action claims allege the company shortchanged over 6,800 dog groomers out of overtime, missed meal breaks, and rest periods.
U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson granted preliminary approval of the settlement, which will resolve numerous allegedly unpaid wages to 6,818 current and former salon associates. The claims were led by dog groomers Lea S. and Andrew R., who represented themselves along with other groomers, pet stylists, stylists in training, and bathers.
According to the class action lawsuits, PetSmart violated CA overtime laws by failing to pay groomers and other salon workers for all hours worked and engaged in an alleged “piece-rate or commission” based pay scheme.
The plaintiffs alleged that PetSmart had only been paying salon workers for the grooming assignments they did, rather than for all hours worked. In addition, PetSmart allegedly failed to compensate salon owners for job related expenses like uniforms and other equipment.
Overall, the plaintiffs claimed salon workers were getting denied overtime and were not given their entitled meal breaks and rest periods, which are all guaranteed for non exempt minimum wage employees under California labor laws.
Overview of California Labor Laws
California is one of the most progressive states when it comes to minimum wage policies, with the labor code requiring an increase to the state’s minimum wage every year.
The minimum wage rate recently became $12 per hour for companies with over 25 employees on Jan. 1, 2019, with exempt employee salaries increasing up to $49,920. In certain areas of the state like San Jose, the minimum wage rate increased to $15 per hour, with rates differing between other counties and different sized companies.
Under CA overtime laws, non exempt employees must be paid 1.5 times their hourly rate if they work at least 40 hours in a single week or eight hours in a single workday. This state’s labor laws also require companies to provide non exempt employees with a 30 minute meal break every five hours, and 10 minute rest period every four hours.
During the 30 minute meal break, employees must be free to leave the company’s property and be free of any work related obligations. If employees are forced to work through their break or meal period, they must be compensated an extra hour of work on their paycheck.
According to the class action lawsuit attorneys, PetSmart failed to provide these to their dog groomers and other salon employees.
Judge Wilson called the proposed settlement dealt “fair and reasonable,” and would allow the litigation to end smoothly for both parties.
“The court further finds that significant investigation, research, litigation, formal and informal discovery have been conducted such that counsel for the parties are able to reasonably evaluate their respective positions,” Judge Wilson stated.
According to the terms of the settlement, there would be a total of $1,569,045 net settlement left over after various costs and deductions were taken into account. Among these deductions included attorney fees up to $605,000 and up to $30,000 in other legal expenses.
The PetSmart Class Action Lawsuits are Case No. 2:17-cv00379, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and Case No. 3:17-cv-01037, in the U.S. District Court Southern District of California.
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