- Zillow Group will now face a class-action battle over alleged illegal wage and hour law violations in a case that was originally brought by the company's former inside sales consultant Ian Freeman.
- Zillow has prevailed at least twice in getting the claims dismissed, but the court gave the plaintiffs more opportunities to amend their complaint.
- The class-action certification means that employees who allege they experienced circumstances similar to Freeman's can join the case and seek damages.
- The plaintiffs' attorneys have estimated that Zillow employed about 150 other people in hourly positions during the class period in controversy.
After fighting a former employee’s accusations that he was overworked and underpaid in California federal court for more than a year, Zillow Group will now face a class-action battle over alleged illegal wage and hour law violations.
U.S. District Judge Josephine L. Staton certified the case of Freeman, et al., v. Zillow Group Inc., as a class action on Friday, opening the door for other former Zillow employees to join the lawsuit.
The original complaint
The case has been making its way through the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California since November 2014, when Ian Freeman, a former inside sales consultant for Zillow, first filed suit. According to Freeman’s original complaint, he was employed by Zillow from September 2012 to September 2014, and was classified as a non-exempt, hourly employee.
Freeman alleged in his original complaint that Zillow “engaged in an illegal design to circumvent federal and state laws with the sole purpose of maximizing profits through a systematic scheme of exploiting and intimidating its employees to miss meal breaks, rest breaks and work overtime without compensation.”
Specifically, Freeman alleged that “Zillow implemented an automated method of ‘recording’ its employees’ work hours through an automated timekeeping system programmed to auto-populate its employees’ hours worked to begin at 8 a.m. and end at 4 p.m., regardless of employee overtime hours worked and missed meal and rest breaks.”
According to Freeman, “Zillow openly instructed its employees that the automated timekeeping system would only be altered in the event an employee missed work or took a sick day.”
Zillow not only “required and demanded” that employees work beyond the normal eight-hour workday and 40-hour workweek without overtime compensation, but the company also expected them to work through meal and rest breaks, Freeman alleged.
Controversy over the details
In its motions to dismiss Freeman’s claims, Zillow contended that the complaint failed to provide any facts or details about its alleged practices or policies that resulted in Freeman and other employees being uncompensated or under-compensated for their work.
Zillow also claimed that more than a dozen employees did get overtime back in 2015.
The company has prevailed at least twice in its attempt to get the plaintiffs’ claims dismissed, but the court gave the plaintiffs more opportunities to amend their complaint.
In additional court filings, the plaintiffs included specifics about how many hours they were expected to work and when, as well as an alleged estimate that in the four years prior to the case’s filing, “Zillow’s illegal and systematic design of disregarding plaintiff and class members’ actual hours worked has led to over $5 million of undocumented and uncompensated hours worked.”
According to court proceedings on Feb. 26, Staton ruled that “Zillow offers absolutely no evidence that the company, in fact, ever paid a single penny in overtime prior to initiation of (Freeman’s court) action.”
Proving a pattern
With Staton certifying the lawsuit as a class action, other Zillow employees who allege they experienced circumstances similar to Freeman’s can join the case and seek damages.
According to the plaintiffs’ calculations of Freeman’s hourly rate, he is owed at least $2,600 per month in unpaid compensation, or about $31,200 per year.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys have estimated that Zillow employed about 150 other people in hourly positions during the class period in controversy.
The company has several other cases pending in California federal court that were filed around the same time as Freeman’s complaint by former employees who allege a range of employee abuse, including unhealthy workplace conditions to racial, sexual and age discrimination, which are being brought by the Los Angeles firm Geragos & Geragos.