Last week, a New Jersey federal judge ruled that a group of Prudential Financial Inc. and Prudential Insurance Co. of America financial representatives will be given a second change to argue for class certification in bringing overtime pay claims.
When the motion for class certification in this case (Bouder et al v. Prudential Financial Inc. et al) was brought before a New Jersey District Court in January, the plaintiffs asked the judge to allow 18 subclasses, including 11 state law classes. In addition to the 11 state law classes, each state law class would also contain three types of agents: financial services associates, Prudential representatives, and statutory agents. The court ultimately showed concern when Prudential asserted that statutory agents qualified as independent contractors, exempting them from overtime wages under the FLSA. Because proof that statutory agents were employees and not independent contractors would require extensive individualized analysis, the court denied class certification due to unmanageability. The plaintiffs subsequently argued that because the judge did not find issue with certifying the financial services associates and Prudential representatives, they should have been considered for class certification as well.
There are many lessons to be learned from this case. First, the Judge raised a legitimate concern about the unmanageability of the class action, even if the proposed fix was flawed. Plaintiffs and their lawyers are better served by bringing more narrowly defined class claims. Second, employees in the financial industry should be aware that they may be eligible for overtime pay although they have high paying or salaried positions. Too often, big banks and hedge funds gamble that these eligible employees will remain in the dark and settle for lower wages.
The Prudential financial representatives argue that they were misclassified as outside sales employees when, in reality, their primary duties consisted mostly of offering financial advice to clients. Under the FLSA, “outside sales” employees are exempt from overtime wages, yet in order for an employee to actually qualify as an outside salesman, the employee must regularly work outside of the office, must obtain orders and contracts for services, and must actually make sales or exchanges. If you work in the financial industry and believe that you may be misclassified, do not continue to let your employer take advantage of you. Contact an attorney who can help you collect your lawful wages under the FLSA.