M&S Closes 2019 On Top, Achieving Important Settlements for Clients

January 13, 2020

by M&S Staff

Pregnant Workers Reach $14 Million Preliminary Settlement with Walmart Regarding 2013-2014 Workplace Policies

U.S. District Judge Staci M. Yandle recently granted preliminary approval of a nationwide, $14 million class action settlement in a lawsuit brought by Walmart workers who were pregnant between March 19, 2013 and March 5, 2014.

The workers alleged that Walmart’s workplace accommodation policies during this period violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and treated pregnant workers less favorably than workers who were injured on the job and/or workers with disabilities.

Mehri & Skalet, along with the National Women’s Law Center and A Better Balance, represent the plaintiffs and the class. Sedey Harper Westhoff in St. Louis is local counsel.

“Pregnant workers, like all working people, deserve to be healthy and safe at work,” partner Ellen Eardley said. “This settlement will benefit thousands of women across the country, and we are proud of the results achieved for these workers.”

This pioneering case is the first successful pregnancy accommodation class action. The court will hold a hearing in April 2020 to determine whether the settlement will become final.

Judge Preliminarily Approves $3.4 Million Settlement for MetLife Workers

The Honorable Judge Paul Crotty of the Southern District of New York granted preliminary approval on October 17, 2019 to a $3,390,000 settlement of a class and collective action against Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (“MetLife”) on behalf of approximately 125 dental consultants. M&S’s Cyrus Mehri, Michael Lieder, and Lauren Nussbaum, along with co-counsel Stacey Gray, filed the action on behalf of their clients in February 2018. The final approval hearing is scheduled for January 15, 2020.

The dental consultants alleged that MetLife had misclassified them as independent contractors. Consequently, it did not include them as participants in employee benefit plans (ERISA violation), failed to pay them overtime when they worked more than 40 hours in a week (FLSA and state law violations), and did not pay them as frequently as required under applicable state laws. These claims all either survived or were not the subject of a partial motion to dismiss filed by MetLife.

While relatively small compared to many of Mehri & Skalet’s cases, this case was legally complex. Plaintiffs had to prove that dental consultants were employees rather than independent contractors and that the consultants were not engaged in the practice of dentistry in performing the claims work. And because the dental consultants worked in eight different states, the lawyers had to be familiar with the overtime and payment frequency laws of each of those states.

“We believe that the settlement is excellent, especially in light of these complexities and obstacles,” noted Lieder. “The gross average award is over $27,000. If Judge Crotty grants final approval, we anticipate that class members will receive their awards in early March.”

Policyholders Awarded $15 Million Settlement in Farmers Class Action

In April 2015, Mehri & Skalet filed a class action complaint in California challenging Farmers Insurance Company’s practice of charging its most loyal policyholders more than was justified by the risk they present, based on their lack of price sensitivity. M&S partner Jay Angoff filed the complaint on behalf of Roger Harris, Duane Brown, and Brian Lindsey, three long-term Farmers policyholders.

On January 8, 2020, after multiple court proceedings, a proceeding before the California Insurance Department and extensive negotiations, Judge Maren Nelson of the Los Angeles Superior Court preliminarily approved a $15 million settlement which will compensate long-term Farmers policyholders who were overcharged. As a condition of the settlement, Farmers has also agreed not to consider its policyholders’ price sensitivity in calculating its auto insurance rates in California, either today or in the future.

Co-counsel in the case, Harris v. Farmers, are Berger Montague of Philadelphia, Tycko & Zavareei of Washington, D.C., and Schonbrun Seplow Harris & Hoffman of South Pasadena, CA. A hearing regarding final approval of the settlement is set for June 17, 2020.

These three settlements totaling $32 million are excellent examples of M&S attorneys achieving outstanding results for our clients in complex cases across a wide range of practice areas.