A California federal judge on Tuesday gave the initial green light to a nearly $1 million settlement resolving a class action filed by a group of forensic analysts against their employer alleging that they did not receive proper minimum wage and overtime pay.
U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino granted the class of workers, led by Aimee Cordova, preliminary approval on the deal reached with defense contractor BAE Systems Technology Solutions & Services Inc. The analysts said they were misclassified as overtime exempt and lost out on wages that were owed to them.
"Given the risks of litigation, the court determines that the amount offered in the proposed settlement agreement is fair and reasonable and that this factor weighs in favor of approval," Judge Sammartino said in the order.
The analysts first sued their employer in California state court, alleging they experienced California labor law violations as well as Fair Labor Standards Act violations, but saw the complaint removed to federal court in December 2020. In their most recent amended complaint, the analysts said they were not paid minimum and overtime wages owed to them, and they also didn't see accurate payment stubs.
They said BAE did not pay them on time, nor did the company reimburse them for work-related expenses. They also said they were not provided meal breaks at work or rest periods for every four hours of work.
To resolve the lawsuit, BAE agreed to pay the group of workers $995,000 with no admittance of wrongdoing.
Class representative Cordova is set to receive a $10,000 award from the total. Attorneys are set to receive no more than 30% of the total, equal to a $298,500 payout.
While Judge Sammartino did not outright reject this figure, she said the court "finds no reason" to award attorney fees that are above the 25% benchmark of the total settlement established by the Ninth Circuit.
"Class counsel will need to show what special circumstances exist warranting a higher percentage in their motion for attorneys' fees," Judge Sammartino said.
An additional $15,000 will go toward litigation costs, $30,000 is designated for penalties under California's Private Attorneys General Act and $22,500 is going to the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency.
After these expenses, $645,000 will be distributed to the class members. If all 31 members of the class participate in the agreement, the average payout is expected to be around $20,822 per person.
Judge Sammartino also certified the class for the purposes of the settlement.
"Having weighed the relevant factors, the court concludes that class treatment is the superior method of adjudicating this controversy," Judge Sammartino said.
BAE spokesperson Tim Paynter told Law360 Tuesday that his company is pleased the court has granted the deal preliminary approval.
BAE is also encouraged that the court "recognizes that BAE Systems is committed to treating forensic analysts fairly and greatly values their contribution to our national security," Paynter said.