October 5th, 2012 was a good day for employees in California. On October 5th , Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Shephard Wiley, Jr. certified a class of over 600 California Claims Representatives (insurance adjusters) employed by Farmers Insurance Exchange. The certified class, in the case Audrey Wilson et al. v. Farmers Insurance Exchange (Case No. BC 371597), covers Claims Representatives working for Farmers Insurance Exchange in eight different departments, ranging from Commercial Property to National Large Loss. California employees that worked as Farmer’s Claims Representatives in these departments anytime from May 18, 2003 to the present are eligible class members.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Claims Representatives by the law firm of R. Rex Parris (Lancaster, California), working in conjunction with the Sloan Firm (Longview & Houston, Texas) and the Zelbst, Holmes & Butler Law Firm (Lawton, Oklahoma). The lawsuit asserts that Farmers’ California Claims Representatives were misclassified by the company as “exempt” from the California laws entitling employees to overtime wages, rest breaks and meal periods. As a result, the case alleges that the employees were illegally denied those benefits by Farmers.
The Plaintiffs argue that they were wrongly classified as exempt from overtime pay because their job duties did not include the exercise of “discretion and independent judgment” with regard to matters of significance. In fact, preliminary evidence revealed that Farmers strictly enforces adherence to its uniform claims handling policies and micro-manages even the minutest details of the claims handling process – to the point that Claims Representatives are required to follow scripts when talking with claimants. The Plaintiffs describe their duties as clerical, routine tasks dictated by strictly enforced, standardized policies, thus excluding them from being classified as exempt from California’s overtime laws.
John Sloan, an attorney for Plaintiffs stated: “Judge Wiley’s well-reasoned decision will allow the Plaintiffs to proceed on behalf of all “Claims Representatives” certified in the class, thus protecting the rights of these employees denied overtime pay to which they are entitled under the law.”