A California federal judge approved a $1.35 million settlement between a group of cable installers and their employer to resolve the collective action alleging the cable company failed to pay employees for driving time and did not provide meal breaks.
U.S. District Judge, William Alsup, ruled last week that the deal brokered between the cable installers, Integrated Tech Group LLC, and ITG Communications LLC was fair and reasonable. He further asserted the claims were thoroughly investigated and contested, making the settlement figure a reasonable conclusion to the suit.
“The settlement agreement does not raise concerns about fraud or collusion,” said Judge Alsup. “Both sides have vigorously litigated this case.”
Paul Monplaisir, Jacky Charles and Sterling Francois first sued the company, known collectively as ITG, in 2019. They said ITG violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and Pennsylvania wage law for failing to pay its workers proper minimum, straight and overtime wages by forcing them to work off the clock during meal breaks that weren't taken and driving time.
While the workers gained conditional collective certification in August 2019, ITG, which provides cable and telecommunications installation services, said that many were bound by arbitration agreements. This cut the collective from 380 members to 132.
The workers then sought class certification for a group of California workers, but a vast majority of this group of employees also had signed arbitration agreements. Before a ruling on class certification, they sought approval of a $1.6 million deal which Judge Alsup denied, ruling that the figure enriched the class counsel more than the class members.
He also said the class did not meet numerosity requirements because after considering the arbitration agreements, only 16 class members were not bound by the deals. The workers then moved forward to conditionally certify a collective made up of 133 opt-in members, none of whom have signed arbitration agreements, according to Judge Alsup's order Thursday.
Judge Alsup said the workers have sufficiently shown the collective members are similarly situated to qualify for the collective settlement. The workers have provided nine declarations from cable installers demonstrating they had similar job duties and were subjected to similar pay practices, he said.
The class counsel has also conducted more than 100 interviews and analyzed more than 10,000 documents to demonstrate that technicians from various states were subject to the same working duties and pay practices, Judge Alsup said. He also said they analyzed GPS data to confirm that technicians spent more than an hour of unpaid driving time.
"This is sufficient to show that collective members are similarly situated, and thus that final collective certification is warranted for settlement purposes," Judge Alsup said.
After attorney fees and litigation costs, the collective will walk away with a $970,000 total settlement fund, which averages out to nearly $7,300 per worker for the 133 collective members, according to the judge's order. He also approved attorney fees in the amount of $227,000 and a $100,000 payout for litigation costs.
The settlement will have $40,000 go toward California's Private Attorneys General Act, three-fourths of which will go to the Labor and Workforce Development Agency and $10,000 of which will be allocated to the workers.
"The settlement represents a strong recovery for collective members," Judge Alsup said.