MetLife Reaches Deal with Claims Specialists in OT Suit

Three disability claims specialists have reached a settlement with MetLife to resolve their $50 million suit that accused the insurance giant of denying the workers overtime pay and classifying them as overtime exempt, according to a New York federal court order issued Friday.

MetLife and the workers — Debra Julian, Stephanie McKinney and Kimberly Harris — notified the court on Thursday that they had reached a settlement to resolve the lawsuit, which claimed the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act when it withheld overtime premium pay from workers. The details of the deal have not yet been provided to the court.

"The court has been advised that the parties in this FLSA action have reached a settlement," U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan wrote Friday.

Judge Nathan said the details of the settlement, and a letter explaining why it should be approved, should be provided to the court no later than March 17. Then the court will review the agreement to determine if it is fair, the judge said.

Judge Nathan also said the court is unlikely to approve the agreement if it contains a confidentiality provision or a general release from all liability.

The lawsuit began in 2017, when the workers filed suit demanding $50 million in unpaid overtime pay from MetLife. The claims specialists had originally filed the suit as a proposed class and collective action in which they alleged that MetLife's pay practices violated the FLSA as well as the New York Labor Law, the Connecticut Minimum Wage Act and the Illinois Minimum Wage Law.

In their third amended complaint, the specialists alleged that before 2013, they were classified as hourly employees who received overtime pay. But in November 2013, they said, MetLife reclassified the specialists as exempt without changing their job duties.

Since then, the specialists gained conditional collective certification but saw their collective decertified in August 2020. Their request for class certification was also denied. Judge Nathan found that the collective and class lacked enough similarities to determine if all the workers qualified for an overtime exemption.

MetLife also nabbed a partial summary judgment in August 2021 on McKinney's FLSA claims, but not her claims under Connecticut law, after Judge Nathan sided with the insurance company's argument that McKinney was ineligible for overtime under the administrative exemption. The workers notified the court that they planned to appeal the decision.

In September, MetLife asked the court to separate the three remaining specialists' claims into three distinct trials, arguing that each worker's claims are too different to litigate together. But on Thursday, the parties jointly filed a request to stay discovery and postpone the pending motions before the court because an agreement had been reached.

Kim Friedman, head of U.S. communications for MetLife, told Law360, "We are pleased that our efforts to reach an agreement were successful."

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