by Corinna Spencer-Scheurich, NWJP Deputy Director
Photo by Julia Freeman-Wolpert via Freeimages.com
NWJP recently joined an important appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to protect two important rights: that of cable installers to earn overtime and that of private employees to protection under the state's whistleblower law.
Matteo Brunozzi worked for Cable Communications, Inc. (CCI) installing cable television and internet services for Comcast. CCI had a complicated piece rate and bonus scheme. Attempting to avoid overtime liability, CCI gave its employees a bonus that was reduced if they did not finish their assigned installations within the 40-hour work week. But because not finishing installations wasn't an option, the more Brunozzi worked, the more his bonus was reduced. This left him with essentially the same weekly pay whether he worked 40, 45 or 47 hours a week. When Brunozzi complained internally about the pay structure and what he believed was a violation of overtime law, he was fired.
Appealing a federal district court decision, NWJP is arguing -- with co-counsels David Schuck, Leslie Baze, and Phil Goldsmith -- that CCI cannot deprive workers of overtime wages through complex bonus calculations.
In addition, and perhaps with broader applicability, counsel is arguing that an internal complaint to a private employer should fall under the protection of Oregon’s whistleblower retaliation law.
The federal district court originally found that, while Mr. Brunozzi did report the overtime violation to his supervisors, it was not enough to invoke protections from retaliation. This interpretation could clearly take the teeth out of the statute and end up intimidating employees from making wage complaints.
We'll report the outcome of this case in future eNews so stay tuned!