The Daily Journal, a leading source for California legal news, selected Rutan & Tucker partners Brian C. Sinclair and Maria Z. Stearns for its annual Top Labor and Employment Attorneys list. Each year, the editors choose up to 75 of the most outstanding lawyers in this area of law for their handling of high-profile and significant cases in California and beyond.
Mr. Sinclair was selected by the Daily Journal for his successful handling of class action litigation, including wage-and-hour cases and other class action litigation and PAGA representative actions. In 2015,, Mr. Sinclair was able to get multiple class actions and PAGA claims dismissed outright or resolved on an individual basis. Mr. Sinclair explained that his “approach is to find weaknesses in the plaintiffs’ cases through careful analysis coupled with an extensive knowledge of California’s wage and hour laws.”
In one case dismissed in March, a plaintiff alleged both individual wage and hour claims and a PAGA representative claim against a tech consulting company, asserting that the company had misclassified its technology workers as independent contractors instead of employees. The complaint alleged failure to pay minimum wages, failure to pay overtime wages, waiting-time penalties, failure to furnish accurate itemized wage statements and failure to reimburse for business expenses. Without conducting any discovery, Mr. Sinclair was able to resolve the dispute on an individual basis with dismissal of the PAGA claims on behalf of other purportedly aggrieved employees.
Ms. Stearns was also recognized for her outstanding achievements. Ms. Stearns was faced with an unusual challenge in an unpaid wages class action against Rutan’s client, a temporary staffing company, as she had no contact information for the class members: former workers at a popular entertainment event.
Ms. Stearns told the Daily Journal, “My client had paid a now-defunct third party, that had apparently withheld money from potential class members. We were dragged in as a joint employer. We had to get creative to locate people.” Fortunately, one of the workers phoned the staffing company to ask about pay. The company called Ms. Stearns and asked what to do. Ms. Stearns told the client to give the worker her number.
“We talked. I said, ‘Look, my client paid for your services. It’s unfortunate that you did not get paid. What do you think you’re owed?” She explained to the worker that her client disputed the claim, but because it was going to cost a lot to fight the class action, the client would offer to simply send a check. “‘Let’s cut to the chase,’ I told him. I disclosed the pending suit. ‘You can participate in the lawsuit, or you can get a check now,’ I said.” The employee agreed to accept payment. “Then I said, ‘If there are others you are aware of . . . .’ The news spread like wildfire. My phone started ringing, the calls came rolling in. It’s a world where people are networked and connected via social media.” Soon, Stearns had settled individually with more than half the potential class and the case was ultimately settled on an individual basis for a nominal amount.
About Rutan & Tucker LLP
With offices in Costa Mesa and Palo Alto, Rutan & Tucker is California’s largest full-service law firm headquartered in Orange County, California. Primary practice areas include business and real estate litigation, corporate and securities law, labor and employment law, intellectual property, real estate, municipal and government agency law, land use law, bankruptcy, condemnation and property valuation, environmental law, and taxation and estate planning. Detailed information about the firm is available at www.rutan.com.