Cheapskates:Judge Rejects Ricoh Americas Wage Settlement As Unfair

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Cheapskates:Judge Rejects Ricoh Americas Wage Settlement As Unfair

 news 2015-02-05 at 12:41:15 pm Views: 855
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    Cheapskates: Judge Rejects Ricoh Americas Wage Settlement As Unfair
    By Kelly Knaub

    Law360, New York (February 02, 2015, 7:43 PM ET) — A New York federal judge refused Monday to sign off on a $325,000 settlement agreement between office electronics company Ricoh Americas Corp. and a proposed class of 400 technicians, saying it was substantively unfair and that not enough details were provided.

    Although U.S. District Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox ruled that it appeared the negotiation process was procedurally fair — despite the scarcity of information about the process — he said lead plaintiff Fernando Ramirez failed to provide enough details to back up the deal.

    Judge Fox said that although the plaintiff contended much more discovery would be required prior to trial to establish liability and damages, including depositions of the defendants, class members and possibly experts, he failed to identify how much more discovery would be required, how many class members would need to be deposed and what experts would possibly be required in an action such as this one.

    He also said the plaintiff failed to identify the conflicting case law or what the anticipated expense and likely duration of the litigation might be in the absence of the agreement.

    “This is a simple action claiming damages pursuant to well-settled federal and state law governing minimum wage and overtime compensation claims,”  the judge said. “The plaintiff failed to show that the instant litigation would be complex, expensive and time consuming.”

    The judge also pointed to other factors, such as the lack of evidence showing that the putative class members support the settlement — noting that Ramirez requested $20,000 of the settlement fund — as well as the lack of detail provided regarding the amount of payroll documents, time records and other information exchanged between parties, and about the number of workers whom the plaintiff interviewed, saying the record showed that only one deposition had been taken over the 7-month time period between the filing of the complaint and the settlement. The plaintiff also failed to identify the risks of establishing liability and damages, the judge said.

    Ramirez, who formerly worked for Ricoh Americas as a technician, filed the suit in December 2013 for unpaid wages and overtime compensation, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the New York Minimum Wage Act and the overtime provisions of the New York Labor Law.

    The proposed class, which consists of about 400 members, includes all individuals who are employed, or were previously employed, by Ricoh Americas as a technician or in a comparable position in the state of New York at any time between Dec. 23, 2007, and July 14, 2014.

    Judge Fox said in his order that the plaintiff failed to explain what a comparable position to the position of technician means. He further said this class definition — included in the plaintiff’s memorandum of law — was inconsistent with the definition laid out in his notice of motion seeking conditional certification, and that no definition was provided in the proposed settlement agreement.

    “The inconsistency of the proposed class definition in the plaintiff’s notice of motion and the memorandum of law and the absence of a definition of the proposed class from the proposed settlement agreement and notices, makes it unclear to the court — as it will make it to anyone who would receive the plaintiff’s notices — who the putative class members might be,” the judge said. “This flaw alone is sufficient to reject the plaintiff’s proposed settlement agreement.”

    Attorneys for the parties did not immediately return a request for comment on Monday.

    Plaintiffs are represented by Lizabeth Schalet, David A. Robins and Robert D. Lipman of Lipman & Plesur LLP.

    Ricoh is represented by Michael J. Puma of Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP.

    The case is Ramirez v. Ricoh Americas Corp., case number 1:13-cv-09073, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

    –Editing by Mark Lebetkin.