Plaintiffs Have Another Go at Farmers Insurance Exchange in California Lawsuit


Los Angeles, CA: It’s déjà vu for Farmers Insurance Exchange (Farmers), following the filing of a California wage and hour class-action lawsuit alleging Farmers improperly classified commercial claims representatives as exempt from overtime pay, while often being made to work upwards of 50 to 60 hours per week or more without compensation.

A similar class-action lawsuit (Bell v. Farmers Insurance Exchange) was settled some time ago following a landmark judgment against the defendant. That judgment, ending a lawsuit originally filed in 1996, was worth $210 million.

“Although many of the plaintiffs were Farmers claims adjusters at the time that Bell v. Farmers Insurance Exchange was resolved, they were not personal lines adjusters and accordingly were not included as class members in the final resolution of the case,” the complaint filed November 2, 2015 states. “Despite the fact that plaintiffs had similar duties and responsibilities to those claims adjusters, they were not considered members of the plaintiff class in Bell v. Farmers Insurance Exchange and accordingly have never received compensation for the overtime hours that they worked.”

This latest California wage and hour class action seeks to represent all those who were not part of the original lawsuit - current and former claims reps employed by the insurer in the state of California from May 2003 to present day. The lawsuit has been brought by the R. Rex Parris Law Firm.

California law requires that hourly, non-salaried workers are paid overtime for any hours worked beyond 8 hours in any given day or 40 hours in any given week. Meal breaks and rest periods are also mandated and must be compensated in kind if missed or not provided. There are various provisions in the California labor code that free employers from paying overtime, including jobs that are classed as management, or IT professionals who are salaried and whose pay has reached a certain threshold, as an example. Thus, there are legitimate instances where employees are exempt from overtime.

However, employers are also known to bend the rules in an attempt to avoid paying overtime to employees who properly qualify.

It has been alleged that following the settlement in the Bell v. Farmers case, the insurer duly reclassified their affected employees as qualifying for overtime, but in name only. A subsequent lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in 2012 accused the insurer of continuing to deny their qualifying employees overtime while at the same time discouraging overtime pay, while maintaining a workplace culture that promoted and required work off-the-clock.

The 2012 lawsuit, which was not a class action but proceeded as an individual claim, was dismissed outright without prejudice by the court in June 2015. A new class action against the insurer was filed in September, apart from the lawsuit noted below which was filed earlier this month.

John Bickford, an attorney with the R. Rex Parris Law Firm, noted that “insurance companies are all about making profit for themselves and trying to cut corners when they have to pay.”

The California wage and hour class action is Karen Mickey et al. v Farmers Insurance Exchange, Case Number BC599916, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.

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