Wolfgang Puck former employees' settlement

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(CNS) –  A judge today gave final approval to a $500,000 settlement resolving claims by more than 2,400 current and former employees of Wolfgang Puck Catering and Events, who alleged wage and hour violations. “It’s a fair and equitable settlement,” said Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Terry Green, who had given a preliminary nod to the resolution on Jan. 10. Green also awarded the plaintiffs $166,666 in attorneys’ fees.

The settlement currently involves 2,484 people who have worked for the company from September 2006 until the present, including drink maker Steven Calabro, the class representative. A total of 905 class members have submitted claim forms, according to the plaintiffs’ court papers.

“I worked hard at Wolfgang Puck, often working through lunches and foregoing my rest breaks,” Calabro stated in a sworn declaration. “If fact, I occasionally showed up to work early and performed duties before clocking in. I also sometimes performed work after I clocked out for the day.”

Calabro said news generated by the lawsuit prompted questions to him from his current employer, and that the public awareness of the case may ultimately be detrimental to him. “It is impossible to say what effect the lawsuit will have on my future employment or employability, but one thing is certain: It will not improve my job prospects,” Calabro said. “The risks of being a representative in a class- action lawsuit are just something I will have to live with.”

Calabro said he believed it was “unfair for Wolfgang Puck to take advantage of me and my colleagues and that (the company) would continue to do so until someone stood up to them.”

Defense attorney Scott Lidman declined to comment.

Calabro filed the suit in September 2010, maintaining that he and other non-exempt employees were denied compensation for missed meal periods and rest breaks, were given inaccurate wage statements and were not paid final wages when due.

“The courage it took to stand up to defendant in this way should not be underestimated,” plaintiffs’ attorney Anthony Orshansky stated in his court papers. “Few people want to confront their employers, let alone sue them. Plaintiff has now cost defendant a substantial amount of money through his courage in vindicating his rights and the rights of past and present workers.”

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