Background - Practices (Details)

Wage and Hour

Crowell & Moring's wage-and-hour lawyers form a diverse, nationwide team of litigators and advisors with a proven record of success in sophisticated engagements. Our clients range from some of the largest companies in the world to mid-size government contractors. We have taken cases all the way to winning verdicts and have disposed of other large wage and hour cases through dispositive motions. We have significant experience in obtaining favorable settlements through mediated negotiations. We maintain an active and sophisticated counseling practice in all aspects of wage hour compliance, including employee classification, timekeeping, and payroll practices, with particular focus on the "white collar" exemptions to overtime obligations. Our representation of government contractors includes significant experience in addressing issues presented by the intersections of the FLSA, the SCA and CWHSSA. Many of our clients have California operations, and we have an active litigation and compliance counseling practice focusing on California state law obligations. We are proud that numerous companies rely on us to guide them through Washington's wage-hour regulatory maze.

Our Approach to Litigation

Our focus in litigation is defeating class certification of wage-hour actions and positioning them for dismissal at summary judgment or victory at trial. We have both the experience and resources to handle actions from the first complaint through summary judgment, trial and appeals. We listen closely to our clients and take into account both legal and business aspects of their objectives. Where appropriate, we also deliver innovative results in reaching acceptable settlements, and we guide those settlements through necessary court approvals.

Representative Matters

  • Misclassification class actions. We have defended various companies accused of misclassifying employees as exempt from overtime obligations or as independent contractors. We took an exemption case to trial in Dallas and got a defense verdict after just one hour of deliberations. This was a significant win for the client, because its business model depends on the position being treated as a salaried, exempt job. Last year, we helped an office products manufacturer settle a nationwide collective action in which the plaintiffs sought damages after a voluntary reclassification of employees from exempt to non-exempt status.
  • Off-the-clock and overtime class actions. We represent many employers embroiled in class action litigation involving alleged failure to pay employees for work performed off the clock, including for time spent traveling, working from home, using company-issued mobile devices, and being on call. We recently won decertification in a nationwide collective action featuring more than 4,000 opt-in plaintiffs, where we addressed allegations of off-the-clock work based on the use of mobile devices (including reading and responding to emails and text messages from coworkers, supervisors, and customers), working through lunch breaks, alleged time shaving by supervisors, and conducting other customer service activities outside of the workplace. We also helped a nationwide retail marketing company secure a favorable settlement in a case centered on employees' alleged activities conducted at home after the work day, and we helped a security services company defeat class certification in California statewide class actions seeking compensation for, inter alia, time spent by employees between the time they clocked in to the timekeeping system and the time their shift began. We helped a major financial services firm successfully resolve off-the-clock claims regarding after-shift and 'at home' work.
  • Meal and rest break class actions. We have represented numerous companies in the defense of class actions alleging failure to provide meal and rest breaks, and associated penalties, in accordance with California law. We repeatedly won denials of class certification (or obtained favorable settlements) in putative statewide actions against a major telecommunications company, a retail marketing company, a security services company, and an airline catering company.
  • Miscellaneous wage-hour class actions. Our California wage-and-hour lawyers have significant experience confronting plaintiffs' firms that comb the California Labor Code in search of novel class action claims against employers, including claims involving prohibited questions on employment applications, vacation accrual claims, out-of-state bank address claims, improper rounding, commission-chargeback claims, seating claims, and various types of employee indemnification and expense reimbursement claims.

Our Counseling/Regulatory Compliance Practice

Crowell & Moring regularly advises clients on their compliance with federal and state wage-and-hour laws. We perform compliance audits in advance of litigation or governmental investigations with the goal of helping clients minimize legal exposure and business disruption. We have considerable experience with the "white collar" exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act and parallel state statutes. 

Over the past several years (often during the pendency of wage-and-hour class cases), we have conducted numerous job classification audits. We often advise clients regarding the implementation of policy changes. We have also helped our clients implement new timekeeping systems and time-reporting policies. For government contractors, we have helped clients navigate the maze of statutory obligations imposed by statute, regulation, and by executive order, including the Service Contract Act. Because even these most sophisticated systems are not immune to human error, we have developed robust employee training programs to accompany the implementation of process changes.

Our Staffing Model

We seek complete alignment with our clients regarding strategy, business objectives, and litigation expenditures. We begin each representation with a detailed discussion with our clients regarding these matters, and we update our plans regularly to provide our clients with greater predictability. Our practice staffs its matters across offices and across the country on a regular basis. This provides our clients with attorneys who are available from the early hours in the east to the late hours in the west. We also staff particular tasks according to our proprietary Six Sigma-based litigation management process. This process assists our attorneys in managing cases in a cost effective way, assigning specialists to particular tasks, tracking budgets, and making appropriate adjustments during a litigation matter.