$200 million lawsuit filed by Del Mar office workers
A proposed $200 million class-action lawsuit was filed in San Diego on Thursday by three ex-employees of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co., alleging certain workers were denied minimum pay and overtime wages.
The federal complaint alleges the Milwaukee-based insurance company bilks its sales and financial representatives in California and other states by intentionally and repeatedly misclassifying them as “independent contractors” rather than as employees.
Independent contractors are exempt from federal and state wage and hour laws, but employees are not.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two plaintiffs who worked in Northwestern Mutual’s Del Mar office – Lola Lint and Norma Waddell – along with David Yang, who worked in the company’s Charlotte and Atlanta offices. “In modern society, workers are not indentured servants – they are entitled to work a livable number of hours at a livable wage,” said David Sanford, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
“Northwestern Mutual has systematically denied basic minimum wage and overtime pay mandated by both the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and California’s overtime and minimum wage laws.”
A spokeswoman for Northwestern Mutual, Jean Towell, said she couldn’t comment directly on the lawsuit since the company hadn’t been served with it yet. She did say, however, that the allegations “are completely without merit.”
“Northwestern Mutual certainly intends to vigorously defend against the lawsuit,” the spokeswoman said.
Towell said the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are independent contractors and not employees of the company.
Court after court, including a federal court in Pennsylvania last year – has reaffirmed the validity of the independent contractor distribution system, Towell said.
The two California plaintiffs – Lint and Waddell – requested certification of a class on behalf of hundreds of California employees or former employees of Northwestern Mutual, and $100 million in unpaid wages and liquidated damages on behalf of the class for violations of state law.
The federal plaintiffs also requested unpaid wages and liquidated damages of $100 million.
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