Cook County Record

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Federal judge OKs lawsuit to continue alleging debt collector Harris & Harris shorted workers pay

By David Hutton | Jul 28, 2017

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CHICAGO — A Chicago federal judge has refused to toss a class action lawsuit brought against a debt collection firm by a former employee who accused the company of shorting her and other workers their pay.

While saying the gavel may ultimately come down in favor of debt collection firm Harris & Harris, for now, U.S. District Judge Jorge L. Alonso sided with plaintiff Leona Redmon, noting enough evidence exists to allow her lawsuit to move ahead. 

“While facts borne out in discovery may belie plaintiff’s contention that she was not paid for all of her on-the-clock work, at this stage of the litigation, the court construes [the] plaintiff’s allegations in her favor and finds that [the] plaintiff has stated an IWPCA claim,” Alonso said.  

Redmon filed a three-count complaint on behalf of herself and others similarly situated against Harris & Harris Ltd. for violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Illinois Minimum Wage Law (IMWL) and the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA).

According to court records, Redmon worked as an account representative in Chicago for the defendant, a collection agency, from Feb. 2, 2015 to Nov. 21, 2016. 

Based on a written agreement, Harris & Harris purportedly agreed to pay Redmon $13 per hour plus bonuses and commissions, and provided other employees with similar written agreements detailing the terms of compensation upon hiring.

Hours worked were tracked by a time card system and wages were calculated to the tenth of an hour.

Redmon alleged the Harris firm instructed her and other workers to clock in and begin working up to 10 minutes before their scheduled start times.

In addition to clocking in early, Redmon and other employees regularly worked and clocked out after their scheduled end times.

In her complaint, Redmon also asserted the firm rounded down the hours of her time on the clock, which led to her being undercompensated.  

The complaint alleged Redmon and other employees regularly worked more than 40 hours a week and, because the hours were not accurately tracked, they were not paid overtime.

The Harris firm in response argued Redmon didn’t allege the existence of an agreement entitling her to the compensation for off-the-clock regular and overtime work, as required to state an IWPCA claim.

However, Redmon countered that Harris & Harris mischaracterized her claim as one seeking payment for off-the-clock work. She argued in her complaint that because of Harris & Harris’s time-tracking system, the company knew how many hours she worked, but did not pay her for all of them.

In his memorandum opinion and order, Judge Alonso cited Enger v. Chicago Carriage Cap Corp., noting wages are defined narrowly under the IWPCA as “compensation owed an employee by an employer pursuant to an employment contract or agreement between the [two] parties.” 

In her complaint, Redmon argued that while she and others were paid the agreed-upon wage, Harris & Harris breached its agreement when it did not pay workers for all the hours they worked.

Redmon is represented in the action by attorneys with the firm of Caffarelli & Associates Ltd., of Chicago.

Harris & Harris is defended by the firm of Hinshaw & Culbertson, of Chicago. 

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Organizations in this Story

Hinshaw & Culbertson LLPCaffarelli & Associates Ltd.Harris & HarrisU.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois