Pellegrino v. Robert Half Int’l, Inc., 181 Cal. App. 4th 713 (2010)

Maria Pellegrino and other account executives of temporary staffing firm Robert Half International (“RHI”) filed this action against RHI for its failure to pay overtime compensation and commissions and to provide meal periods and itemized wage statements and for unfair competition. RHI had classified Pellegrino and the other account executives as administratively exempt employees. Among other things, the account executives’ duties included recruiting, interviewing and evaluating candidates to be placed as temporary employees. RHI relied upon two principal affirmative defenses, including an agreement by which the account executives purportedly agreed to limit the time period within which to file any claims against RHI to six months and, secondly, that plaintiffs were exempt from overtime. The trial court bifurcated the unfair competition claims and ordered that those claims first be tried to the court (without a jury). After 17 days of trial and at the end of RHI’s case in chief on the exemption defense, plaintiffs moved for judgment pursuant to Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 631.8, which the trial court granted before entering a judgment in favor of plaintiffs in the amount of $615,000. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the six-month purported limitation on plaintiffs’ claims was unenforceable under Labor Code § 219. The Court further held the administrative exemption was inapplicable to plaintiffs because their work did not directly relate to management policies or general business operations of RHI or its customers. See also Pellegrino v. Robert Half Int’l, Inc., 2010 WL 336687 (Cal. Ct. App. 2010) (attorney’s fees award of $978,122 remanded to trial court for recalculation); Villalobos v. Guertin, 2009 WL 4718721 (E.D. Cal. 2009) (prevailing party employer’s motion for $21,000 in attorney’s fees granted against attorney of former employees in wage­-and-hour class action).