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Class action against MetLife conditionally certified

Class action against MetLife conditionally certified

A federal judge in New York granted conditional certification of a nationwide class of claims specialists for unpaid overtime brought against MetLife Inc. in a lawsuit seeking over $50 million in lost wages and liquidated damages, the plaintiffs’ attorney said Friday.

U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan in New York on Thursday granted conditional certification to the class in the case of Debra Julian et al. v. MetLife Inc. et al., New York-based Sanford Heisler Sharp L.L.P., the law firm representing the class, said in a statement.

The class action asserts that MetLife ceased paying overtime to its long-term disability claims specialists in November 2013, after “reclassifying” them without any actual change in their job duties, the law firm said.

A MetLife spokeswoman said in an email statement that “MetLife believes these claims are without merit and plans to defend itself vigorously.”

The action was brought by plaintiffs Debra Julian, a former long-term disability claims specialist in New York, and Stephanie McKinney, a former long-term disability claims specialist in Connecticut. The plaintiffs are represented by Sanford Heisler Sharp and Krakower DiChiara L.L.C. in Park Ridge, New Jersey.

MetLife formerly paid its LTD claim specialists hourly wages and overtime pay but stopped doing so after the reclassification. The complaint charges that MetLife made the classification change as a “cost-cutting measure.”

The plaintiffs allege that MetLife’s LTD claim specialists’ job principally involves gathering information about disability claimants, entering the information into MetLife’s computer systems, and consulting with supervisors and specialized staff. LTD claim specialists regularly work between 45 and 60 hours weekly, without appropriate compensation for their overtime hours, the complaint said.

“Judge Nathan’s conditional certification is a welcome first step in addressing MetLife’s flagrant compensation practices,” Michael Palmer, co-chair of Sanford Heisler Sharp’s wage and hour practice, said in a statement. “Despite consistently having to work more than 40 hours per week, LTD claim specialists are denied overtime pay. With this ruling, the class action can now proceed on behalf of hundreds of workers.”

The opposing parties have been given 10 days to propose and justify any redactions to the memorandum opinion.

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