A federal judge last week granted preliminary approval to a $2.5 million settlement deal between Covidien (NYSE:COV) and a purported class of workers in California who accused the medical device company of pressuring workers not to take breaks.
Judge David Carter of the U.S. District Court for Central California approved the settlement Jan. 31 in a lawsuit filed by lead plaintiff Van Ba Ma, according to court documents.
"Here, Mr. Ma seems to have a fairly strong case, but it would be subject to a number of defenses by Covidien. Most significantly, Covidien would have arguments that employees were given the opportunity to take breaks and employees were not improperly pressured to forego them. Furthermore, there would be significant risks that the class could not remain certified, if Mr. Ma was not able to show the presence of policies, practices, or any other facts that would act as the glue to hold together all nonexempt California employees," Carter wrote. "Given the risks, the Court finds that $2,500,000 – or 9.1% of the total value of the action – is ‘within the range of reasonableness.’"
The settlement would cover the claims of about 975 workers from Mansfield, Mass.-based Covidien’s California operations. Ma originally brought the suit in a California state court in September 2012, according to the documents. Ma alleged that Covidien "had a consistent policy of requiring class members within the state of California, including plaintiff, to work at least 5 hours without a lawful meal period," according to the documents.
"Plaintiff alleges that he and putative class members never ‘received a rest break premium for a missed, shortened, or late rest period’ and that plaintiff and class members were not provided ‘lawful rest periods, and were not provided with 1 hour’s wages in lieu thereof.’ Plaintiff further alleges ‘[a]t all times relevant hereto, [Covidien] failed to provide rest periods and actually prevented rest periods as required,’" according to court records.
The lawsuit claimed that the purported class members are due an hour’s pay for each missed meal period and rest break incurred during the 4 years covered by the suit. The lawsuit also claims that Covidien failed to provide proper itemized wage statements, "systematically" refused to pay wages due under California’s labor laws and failed to pay wages due on termination, according to the documents.