Zillow Inc. sales consultants in California were certified
as a class Feb. 26 with claims that the real estate listing giant deprived non-exempt, hourly employees of overtime payments, lunch breaks and rest breaks (Freeman v. Zillow, C.D. Cal., No. 8:14-cv-01843, order 2/26/16). Judge Josephine L. Staton of the U.S. District Court
for the Central District of California granted certification to the class of approximately 150 current and former Zillow inside sales consultants. The group includes representatives who worked a shift scheduled between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. from Nov. 19, 2010, to Jan. 4,
2015. In a complaint filed in November 2014 and amended twice since then, named plaintiff Ian Freeman accused Zillow of unlawfully circumventing federal and state laws to maximize profits. The company allegedly used a ‘‘systematic scheme of exploiting and intimidating its
employees’’ to miss meal and rest breaks and to work overtime without compensation.
In moving for class certification, attorneys for Freeman said Zillow ‘‘engaged in a campaign that was designed to deprive’’ hundreds of potential class members of overtime compensation and meal and rest periods to which they were entitled by law. Judge Staton granted the bid for class certification in the case, saying the facts ‘‘strongly support’’ the argument that Zillow’s discouragement of overtime was centralized and common to the class. ‘‘Zillow offers absolutely no evidence that the company, in fact, ever paid a single penny in overtime prior to initiation of this action,’’ the judge wrote in the 13- page in-chambers order. ‘‘This omission is even more striking in light of the declaration from Zillow’s expert, which confirms that the company started paying overtime only after initiation of this lawsuit.’’ Lawsuit Filed. Freeman first lodged the complaint against Zillow Nov. 19, 2014, saying the real estate marketplace
implemented an automated method of recording its employees’ work hours. The company’s timekeeping system automatically populated with a shift from 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., regardless of overtime hours worked or breaks missed, according to the lawsuit. Freeman amended the suit in April 2015 and then again in June 2015, ultimately including claims for failure to pay wages, failure to pay overtime wages, failure to provide meal or rest breaks and waiting time penalties. The former Zillow employee’s other causes of action were for failure to maintain and provide accurate wage statements, unfair business practices, willful violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and violation of the FLSA. ‘‘Through various memos, meetings, and methods of
intimidation, Zillow demanded from Plaintiff and Class and/or Collective Action Members to begin work prior to the automatically-recorded 8:00 a.m. start time and continue working well beyond the previously recorded 4:00 p.m. punch-out time,’’ attorneys for Freeman wrote in the second amended complaint. ‘‘In fact, Zillow openly instructed its employees that the automated
time-keeping system would only be altered in the event an employee missed work or took a sick day.’’
Bid for Certification. On Nov. 20, 2015, counsel for the proposed class sought certification in the case against Zillow. The lawyers argued in that motion that the company manipulated its electronic time system to reflect that the employees were working eight hours per day
with a one-hour lunch break. ‘‘Plaintiff and the Proposed Class were in reality working significantly longer hours without the appropriate break times and were prohibited from accessing the time keeping system,’’ the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote. ‘‘Zillow did not allow the employees’ electronic time entries to exceed eight hours of work per day so
that it could avoid the requisite overtime payments.’’ Judge Staton granted the motion Feb. 26, certifying a class of current and former inside sales consultants who worked the 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. shift over the course of four years. The judge also certified a subclass
of former employees who meet the same qualifications, according to court records. ‘Wrongful Conduct.’ Bobby Samini of Samini Scheinberg PC in New Port Beach, Calif., counsel to the
plaintiffs, said class certification means Zillow’s ‘‘mission to deny its blatant and wrongful conduct has come to an end.’’ ‘‘The only question that remains is, how long will the
Zillow Board and Shareholders allow Company executives to spend their earnings on legal fees in defending their wrongful conduct?’’ Samini told Bloomberg BNA in a March 1 e-mail. ‘‘My estimation is that they’ve spent well over a million dollars (and maybe closer to 2
million) in legal fees to ‘defend’ this case. The most despicable part is that it involves compensation of employees.’’ Representatives for Zillow didn’t immediately return
Bloomberg BNA’s requests for comment March 1. The plaintiffs are represented by Mark. J. Geragos
and Ben J. Meiselas of Geragos & Geragos in Los Angeles and by Bobby Samini, Nicole Prado and Matthew M. Hoesly of Samini Scheinberg PC in Newport Beach, Calif. Zillow is represented by Brooke A. M. Taylor of Susman Godfrey LLP in Seattle and Steven G. Sklaver, Amanda Bonn, Davida Brook and Ravi Doshi of Susman Godfrey in Los Angeles.