A Chicago federal judge has signed off on an order
certifying a class of plaintiffs suing Bridgeview Bank for not properly paying
its loan officers.
U.S. District Judge Jorge L. Alonso issued his memorandum
opinion and order Dec. 22, responding to the request of Lynn Jean Pieksma, who
was a mortgage banker at Bridgeview’s office in Irvine, Calif., from March
through September 2013. She’d accused the bank of violating the Fair Labor
Standards Act by failing to properly pay loan officers minimum wage or overtime
for time worked off the clock, as well as allegedly illegally deducting minimum
wage and overtime compensation from paid commissions.
The class would include anyone who worked as a non-exempt
loan officer for the bank over the preceding three years; attorneys at Rowdy
Meeks Legal Group LLC of Leawood, Kan., would be appointed class counsel. At
the time of her filing, 15 similarly situated loan officers from four
Bridgeview offices filed consent petitions to join as plaintiffs.
In its motion to strike the plaintiffs’ declarations, Bridgeview
stated it paid overtime to Pieksma and many of the opt-in plaintiffs. It said
that between January 2013 and August 2015, its loan officers earned nearly
$600,000 in overtime compensation and that in 2015 more than a third of loan
officers reported working overtime hours.
Bridgeview said Pieksma’s complaint involved claims that were
“boilerplate, conclusory attorney-drafted statements that lack specificity and
are at times contradictory.” The bank argued it should have the chance to
depose affected loan officers, obtain answers to information collected during
discovery and submit an additional briefing before the judge ruled on the
motion for class certification.
Alonso noted Pieksma’s complaint included 13 “nearly
identical declarations, except for personal identifiers, from (loan officers)
in three different offices and managers from a fourth,” all indicating
Bridgeview corporate officials passed on information during training session
indicating loan officers usually worked more than 40 hours a week without
overtime pay. They also said “managers discouraged them from reporting all of
their overtime hours, that they regularly worked ‘off the clock,’ and that they
did not fully report all of the hours they worked.”
He further said Pieksma’s complaint made it clear she believed
the alleged FLSA violations took place at multiple bank offices. And while
Bridgeview argued the complaint relied on hearsay to allege a company-wide
policy, “those directives support the conclusion that each declarant’s manager
knew that each declarant was not fully reporting all of the hours he or she
worked,” Alonso wrote.
Bridgeview further agued its policies are FLSA complaint and
any deficiencies likely happened only when employees disregarded corporate
practice. It also said loan officers had access to time cards to allow them to
input and change their hours in the bank’s electronic timekeeping systems.
Bridgeview monitors those reported hours and said human resources departments
send warnings to those who don’t keep accurate records. In at least one
instance, the bank said, it learned a loan officer failed to accurately record
overtime and then gave that employee back wages and overtime.
Alonso further noted the legal precedents Bridgeview tried
to supply in its defense all were significantly different from Pieksma’s claim,
which raised a factual dispute of whether loan officers worked off the clock.
Ultimately, the fact Bridgeview did pay some overtime wages
“do not negate the declarations in which loan officers indicate they have not
been paid all the overtime they are owed,” he wrote.
Alonso granted conditional class certification and denied
the bank’s motion to strike the claim.
Bridgeview Bank is represented in the action by the firm of
Offit Kurman P.A., with offices in Baltimore, Fulton and Bethesda, Md.; and by attorney
Christopher S. Griesmeyer, of Greiman, Rome and Griesmeyer LLC, of Chicago.