Fineline Woodworking and the associated Fineline Architectural Millwork are facing a class action lawsuit from employees, both current and former, who allege the company failed to accurately pay them for time worked, among other grievances. The legal complaint, filed June 29, 2021, points to what the lawsuit calls “unlawful, unfair, and deceptive business practices,” which they allege ultimately shorted workers overtime pay, meal breaks, and reimbursement for required business expenses.

More specifically, the lawsuit alleges that Fineline “retained and continues to retain wages due” to Omar Vejar, the only named plaintiff, described in the suit as “a non-exempt employee entitled to minimum wages, overtime pay and meal and rest periods,” as well as to class members. The wages in question are owed to employees, the lawsuit claims, as Vejar—and other members of the class action—“performed work before and after the beginning of his shift, spending time under Defendants’ control for which he was not compensated,” as well as being ordered to work more than five hours during a shift without an uninterrupted, off-duty meal break.

Additional claims state that Fineline employees were “from time to time unable to take off duty meal breaks and were not fully relieved of duty for meal periods” and that the company sometimes required employees to work “while off-the-clock during what was supposed to be their off-duty meal periods.” In doing so, the lawsuit alleges, plaintiff and class members “forfeited meal breaks without additional compensation and in accordance with defendants’ strict corporate policy and practice,” which is the basis of the claim that the workers “forfeited minimum wage and overtime compensation by regularly working without their time being accurately recorded and without compensation at the applicable minimum wage and overtime rate.”

Not only were meal breaks interrupted, the plaintiffs allege, but so were rest breaks, if they were provided at all. “Further, these employees were denied their first rest periods of at least ten minutes for some shifts worked of at least two (2) to four (4) hours, a first and second rest period of at least ten (10) minutes for some shifts worked of between six (6) and eight (8) hours, and a first, second and third rest period of at least ten (10) minutes for some shifts worked of ten (10) hours or more,” the complaint says, adding that when those breaks were provided, the employees “were often interrupted and required … to work during their rest breaks.” Those bringing suit say that due to company policy they were “required to remain on the premises, on-duty and on-call” while on their rest breaks, and were “not provided with one hour wages in lieu” of the interrupted rest breaks.

The claims of undocumented, uncompensated time worked, cumulative from before shift, interrupted meal breaks, and the denied or shortened rest breaks, add up to Costa Mesa-based Fineline flouting California state law of paying “each employee, on the established payday for the period involved, not less than the applicable minimum wage for all hours worked in the payroll period,” the lawsuit says. Plaintiff also alleges that the company violated California Labor Code by not providing “complete and accurate wage statements,” as those that were provided “failed to show, among other things, the correct time worked, work performed in excess of eight (8) hours in a workday and/or forty (40) hours in any work week, and the gross wages paid for those periods during the pay period, and under the correct penalty payments or missed meal and rest periods.”

Vejar is also asking for reimbursement for business expenses, as he and others were “required … to use their own personal cellular phones as a result of and in furtherance of their job duties … but were not reimbursed or indemnified … for the cost associated with the use of their personal cellular phones” for work-related measures.

Though Vejar is the leading plaintiff of the case, it is also filed “on behalf of himself and all persons similarly situated,” and they’re gunning for a class action status due to both the number of employees allegedly affected and privacy for those who might still be working for the company. To litigate each claim individually would risk “inconsistent or varying adjudications with respect to individual members” and, as the lawsuit points out, “in the context of wage litigation, because a substantial number of individual California Class members will avoid asserting their legal rights out of fear of retaliation … which may adversely affect an individual’s job with Defendants or with a subsequent employer” class action may be the “only means to assert their claims through a representative.”

That said, those party to the lawsuit are also seeking to hold individuals at Fineline responsible for their actions in creating or enforcing company policy. In addition to naming the companies as a whole they are taking on up to 50 unnamed individuals, currently listed as Does 1-50 inclusive. Filed in the Superior Court of California, Orange County, the initial complaint indicates that “Does 1 through 50, inclusive, are responsible in some manner for one or more of the events happenings that proximately caused the injuries and damages,” leaving the door open for naming specific employees at Fineline at a later time.

Stay tuned to DWM magazine for updates about this case as they become available.


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