A federal court in Washington, D.C. has approved the settlement of a lawsuit that alleged that four construction companies (or their subcontractors) underpaid hundreds of employees. The employees participating in the case will receive over $340,000.
The plaintiffs, who were represented by Matthew B. Kaplan of The Kaplan Law Firm, alleged that for years hundreds of similarly situated construction employees in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area were not paid at the overtime rate for overtime work and, in some cases, were not paid the minimum wage. They also alleged that, although they were employees, they were unlawfully treated as independent contractors. Defendants in the lawsuit, which was brought in 2019, include two large nationwide constructions firms, Anning-Johnson Company and Hitt Contracting, Inc.
During the October 26, 2021 hearing in which he granted final approval to the settlement, U.S. District Judge Emmett G. Sullivan praised the work of all parties in reaching a resolution of this litigation. He described the matter as one of the more complex cases that he has dealt with. One reason that the case was complex was that it involved claims brought under three separate bodies of wage and hour law—federal law and District of Columbia and Virginia state law. Moreover, it was an unusual amalgamation of two different (and sometimes inconsistent) procedural mechanisms meant to facilitate adjudication of cases with numerous plaintiffs: it was both a class action brought under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and a collective action brought pursuant to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
The average payment to the employees who participated in the settlement will be more than $3,800. The court also approved an attorneys’ fees award of $210,00. That amount, which reflects litigation expenses incurred and the more than 530 hours that plaintiffs’ attorneys and paralegals devoted to this case over a period of two years, will be paid separately by the defendants and will not reduce the employees’ recovery.
The case is Esparaza v. Anning-Johnson Co., 1:19-cv-03481-EGS (D.D.C.). The Kaplan Law Firm’s cocounsel in this case were the very able attorneys of Handley, Farah & Anderson. The Final Approval Order can be viewed here.