Editor’s Note: A federal court in California has certified a class action challenging Bank of America’s failure to pay overtime to staff appraisers. In another case, staff review appraisers stand to receive a settlement averaging over $10,000 each from BOA/LandSafe.
Court Certifies Class and Approves Nationwide Class Settlement for Review Appraisers
by Bryan Schwartz
United States District Court for the Central District of California, Hon. David O. Carter, certified a class action challenge on behalf of hundreds of real estate appraisers employed by Bank of America and its appraisal subsidiary, LandSafe Appraisal Services, around California, seeking back wages for unpaid overtime, meal and rest period premiums, and other wages and penalties
Judge Carter also granted his preliminary approval to a $5.8 million settlement on behalf of another group in the case, called Review Appraisers – who verify the Residential Appraisers’ reports. Approximately 370 review appraisers nationwide will soon receive notice of the settlement, which is expected to receive final approval in November 2014, barring any successful objections. Each participant, on average, will net a payment of over $10,000 in the settlement, and the position will be reclassified in 2014 so that Bank of America’s Review Appraisers will be paid overtime going forward.
Boyd, et al., v. Bank of America, et al
The case in question, Boyd, et al., v. Bank of America, et al., was brought by San Francisco Bay Area attorney Bryan Schwartz along with Schonbrun, Desimone, Seplow, Harris & Hoffman of Los Angeles. The action alleges that Bank of America wrongly called appraisers exempt from wage laws based upon the notion that they were company administrators or policy-makers (like human resources officials) or learned professionals (like attorneys and doctors), who must undergo a prolonged course of specialized academic instruction.
Judge Carter, in Orange County, noted evidence that “Residential appraisers do not supervise anyone, advise management, advise loan officers, negotiate, or bind LandSafe in any way.” Rather, the decision noted that “each report produced by a residential appraiser corresponds to a single mortgage sale by Bank of America.” Because the policies, job descriptions, and state and federal guidelines governing the appraisers were uniform for the whole class, the Court found that a common, predominant question existed as to whether the so-called “administrative exemption” from the wage requirements could apply. The court also found a key common question whether the appraisers are “’primarily engaged in an occupation commonly recognized as a learned . . . profession’ in light of the minimum standards for licensing, certification, and continuing education.” Apart from the extensive on-the-job training, appraisers do not need more than a high school diploma plus several weeks of classes.
“The Court’s order is a complete victory on our motion seeking to have all appraisers’ claims heard together,” said Schwartz, who argued the motion for the Plaintiffs. “These days, when class certification is under attack by companies and their advocates, trying to keep workers from coming together to vindicate the wage protections, it is refreshing to see a well-reasoned court order which gives the employees a fair chance to fight for their rights.”
“I look forward to representing the class, and to proving that all the residential appraisers are entitled to be paid overtime and be provided meal and rest periods when they work long hours – as is so often the case,” said Boyd, the class representative. Though Bank of America challenged the “adequacy” of several of the class representatives, the court found each of them suitable.
About the Author
Bryan Schwartz (BryanSchwartzLaw.com) is a leading California attorney representing workers in wage, discrimination, and whistleblower claims. In recent years, he has represented residential and commercial appraisers in multiple, nationwide class action lawsuits against their employers. For more information about this case, Boyd, et al. v. Bank of America, et al., please contact Bryan Schwartz: Bryan@BryanSchwartzLaw.com.