In a case with major state-wide implications, Harris & Kaufman employee attorneys successfully represented the plaintiffs in a class action for overtime pay against U-Haul International, Inc. In Crandall v.s. U-Haul International, Inc., Harris & Kaufman, with William E. Harris & Matthew A. Kaufman acting as lead attorneys, represented 480 current and former employees, entitled “General Managers,” of U-Haul rental outlets. At trial, the employees argued that the Phoenix-based company wrongly classified them as exempt from overtime requirements of California law. The plaintiffs claimed that they spent most of their work time engaged in sales and the same work as the other non-management employees at the stores. The court agreed with the plaintiffs, ruling that the evidence did not show that the employees spent over 50% of their time engaged in management work as required by state law.
U-Haul threw everything but the kitchen sink at the plaintiffs. U-Haul spent millions of dollars in its defense by hiring four law firms, an uncountable number of lawyers, and many high-priced expert witnesses. Adding to U-Haul’s resources, the California Employment Law Counsel, an organization financed by big business, also appeared as a party in the case and lobbied the court of appeal and supreme court to intercede. Despite the financial mismatch, Harris & Kaufman proved their determination and that the employees were non-exempt by persuading the trial judge to disregard U-Haul’s arguments and rule on behalf of the employees.
This is the first class action to go to trial on the issue of whether managers spent over half their work time engaged in exempt work under California law. The case, which was the subject of articles in Business Week, CFO Magazine, The Los Angeles Times and The Los Angeles Daily Journal, was closely followed by the employer’s bar and lobby. The result implicates the common practice throughout the state of classifying as “exempt” employees who work on the sales floors and production lines.