By Rebecca Bowe
It’s payday for about 700 Pacific Gas & Electric employees – and for some, the check will cover long hours they put in more than a decade ago.
As part of a settlement in a class-action lawsuit, PG&E must fork over $17.25 million in unpaid overtime going back, in some cases, to 1996. The settlement, approved by a San Francisco Superior Court judge on July 30, is the final conclusion of Conley, et al. v. Pacific Gas & Electric Company, a legal battle that wore on for nine years. It requires the utility giant to hand over back pay and attorneys’ fees for roughly 700 current and former employees who alleged that they were improperly classified as exempt from overtime and denied overtime compensation.
John Conley, who is still employed by the utility, worked as a Senior New Business Representative at PG&E when he and three other coworkers filed the lawsuit in March of 2000. “Some of us were working ten-plus hours a day, and one day on the weekend for four to six hours,” Conley said.
Although they were working alongside employees who had similar responsibilities and received time-and-a-half pay for overtime hours, Conley said, PG&E did not grant overtime compensation to the Senior New Business Representatives. “I felt that there were many, many others who were in the same boat,” he added. Conley says he has since been promoted, but he stuck with the complex and difficult case for the better part of a decade nonetheless. "I am thrilled that my hardworking colleagues will finally be compensated for their many long hours of overtime work," he said.
The settlement also requires PG&E to pay overtime compensation to Senior New Business Representatives and Industrial Power Engineers – the majority of employees who sued – from here on out.
“We are especially pleased that many employees will have the option in the future of working overtime for a real increase in their pay, or having more time for their families and other pursuits,” noted attorney Jonathan Siegel, whose Oakland-based firm, Siegel & LeWitter, represented the PG&E employees.
PG&E did not return calls from the Guardian seeking comment. However, a San Jose Mercury News story quoted a PG&E spokeswoman as saying, "We believe these employees were properly classified, according to California law. We are pleased we were able to come to a compromise that is fair for both our employees and our customers."