Wells Fargo to Pay $6.5M to End Meal Break Suit

Wells Fargo Bank has agreed to pay $6.5 million to a proposed class of thousands of workers, ending a California federal court lawsuit which alleged that the bank failed to provide the workers with proper meal and rest breaks.

In the suit’s most recent motion, a former personal banker, Caudley Simon, asked U.S. District Judge John A. Kronstadt to preliminarily approved the deal he struck with the bank on behalf of about 26,000 workers.

“The settlement provides significant benefits to the class while avoiding the risks and delays inherent in continued litigation,” Simon said.

The deal is set to end the lawsuit in which Simon claimed Wells Fargo failed to provide its workers with 10-minute rest breaks for every four-hour work period and 30-minute duty-free meal breaks, in violation of California labor law. Simon also claimed workers were required to spend hundreds of dollars to comply with bank dress code policies and were not timely paid after parting ways with the company.

The settlement would cover attorney fees up to nearly $2.2 million, almost $70,000 in estimated claims administration expenses, litigation costs up to $45,000, a service award for Simon as high as $7,500 and as much as $5,000 to settlement class member Natalia Zamora, according to Saturday's filing.

Simon said the deal will also settle a separate action he filed in January 2020 in Los Angeles Superior Court seeking civil penalties under California's Private Attorneys General Act, which allows workers to file wage claims with the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency.

The PAGA claim will be added to the present suit in California federal court and resolved with a $200,000 payment, of which 25% will be distributed to the class and 75% to the state labor agency, according to the motion.

After those deductions are made, the remaining net settlement amount will be divided among the expected 25,700 class members, resulting in an average recovery of $256 for each worker, according to Simon's motion.

Simon, who worked as a personal banker at a Wells Fargo branch in Los Angeles from November 2014 to November 2015, told the court in October he had reached a deal with the bank even after an unsuccessful mediation session, according to court documents.

Simon filed his lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court in December 2019, and Wells Fargo removed it to California federal court in January 2020, the court docket shows. In addition to his meal and rest break violation and dress code claims, Simon alleged that the bank failed to pay its workers for the wages it owed them after they left the company.

Wells Fargo spokesperson Beth Richek told Law 360 on Monday that the bank "looks forward to putting this legal matter behind us."

"Wells Fargo has a long-standing commitment to compensating our employees fairly and in accordance with federal and state laws," Richek added.

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