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MetLife Inc. faces a $50 million lawsuit alleging that the insurer wrongly reclassified the job of long-term disability claims specialists and stopped paying them overtime.
According to a suit filed in U.S. District court in Connecticut on Tuesday, the New York-based insurer reclassified the LTD claims specialists in an effort to reduce costs but kept paying short-term disability claims workers as nonexempt hourly workers. The suit, which seeks class-action status, was filed by law firms Sanford Heisler, L.L.P. and Schneider Law Firm, L.L.C.
A MetLife spokesperson said in an email that the company has not had a chance to review the lawsuit and declined to comment.
Lead Plaintiff Stephanie McKinney, a former LTD claims specialist worked for MetLife in Bloomfield, Connecticut, from September 2013 to July 2016 as an LTD claim specialist, according to the suit.
“LTD claim specialists regularly work between 45 and 60 hours per week,” the complaint said, but Ms. McKinney alleged that for over three years MetLife didn’t compensate her and other LTD claim specialists for overtime.
The complaint said that MetLife used to pay its LTD claim specialists hourly wages and overtime pay. But in November of 2013, MetLife “reclassified” LTD claim specialists and stopped paying them overtime, without any change in LTD claim specialists’ job duties. MetLife made the change as a “cost-cutting measure,” the complaint said.
“By contrast,” the complaint said, “short term disability claim specialists remained classified as non-exempt hourly employees and continued to receive overtime pay.”
On February 19, 2016, Ms. McKinney filed a complaint against MetLife with the Connecticut Department of Labor. After conducting an investigation, the suit said, the Department of Labor told her that MetLife misclassified her position as exempt because, among other reasons, she “had no direct reports, no advanced education, and could not make independent decisions.”
Wage and hour cases have skyrocketed, according to an annual report by the law firm Seyfarth Shaw L.L.P. released last month.
A ruling that regulators were “arbitrary and capricious” in their decision to designate MetLife Inc. a systemically important financial institution is a major victory for insurers, but the battle continues.