Ma Labs Computer Parts Workers Secure Class Certification In California Wage-Theft Action

Posted October 10th, 2014.

Class Trial Scheduled for February 2015

For more information, contact Jamie Moss, newsPRos, 201-788-0142,

October 10, 2014 (San Francisco, CA) — Superior Court of California (Santa Clara) Judge Peter H. Kirwan granted class certification to a group of more than 550 hourly workers seeking to recover unpaid wages from Ma Labs, a multi-national computer parts distributor based in San Jose, California.

The workers allege that Ma Labs’ time-keeping clocks were rigged to “shave” time off of their paychecks and that they were denied meal and rest breaks.

“We are thrilled by the Court’s certification decision.  It will allow these employees to stand together, as a group, and demand the wages they are owed,” said Xinying Valerian, an attorney with Sanford Heisler, LLP and the plaintiffs’ lead counsel.  “Many of these employees are immigrants who speak limited English, working for minimum wage and trying to support their families.  Now, they will have their trial after years of hard fought victories.”

Judge Kirwan held that all employees who are clocked-in are “subject to the control” of Ma Labs, regardless of their specific activity at a given moment.  Therefore, because the employees’ actual swipe times are recorded in the company’s computers, the issue can easily be adjudicated “simply on a review of the time records.”

Judge Kirwan also found that “Ma Labs’ failure… to inform employees of the uninterrupted nature of their meal breaks, coupled with the practice of allowing managers to request work from employees [during their meal breaks]” created a “sufficiently common set of facts and circumstances… to make class treatment appropriate.”

Ma Laboratories employees recently partnered with the Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition to hold a rally protesting sweatshop conditions and illegal pay practices at Ma Labs and other workplaces.  Studies show the average low-wage worker can expect to lose 15% of their wages to wage theft.  The Coalition predicts that figure might be closer to 25% in Santa Clara County, a known hotbed for worker exploitation.

“We hope this order will send a message to employers statewide,” said Marc Litton, the counsel who originated the case and who serves as co-counsel.  “Corporations should not be able to steal from their most vulnerable employees and then get away with it through divide-and-conquer tactics in the courtroom.”

Co counsel Ed Chapin of the San Diego firm Chapin Fitzgerald said:  “We are looking forward to trial in February, 2015.  The workers at Ma Labs will have their opportunity to prove to the world exactly what happened to them at work.  They deserve that opportunity and we are confident that we will win.”

About Sanford Heisler

Sanford Heisler is a public interest law firm with offices in Washington, D.C., New York, and San Francisco that specializes in employment discrimination, wage and hour, qui tam and other civil rights matters.  The firm has extensive experience in complex class action litigation having successfully represented thousands of individuals in major class action cases in the United States. The firm also represents select individual clients with a particular emphasis on the representation of executives and lawyers in employment disputes and whistleblowers. In May 2010, the firm won the largest jury award in the U.S. in a gender discrimination employment class action when a jury returned a verdict of $253 million in compensatory and punitive damages against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation.  In 2012, the firm settled a wage and hour case on behalf of sales reps employed by Novartis Pharmaceuticals for $99 million.

Sanford Heisler has an impressive history of success in qui tam, or whistleblower cases brought under the False Claims Act, having represented whistleblowers in a 124 million dollar qui tam settlement with Omnicare, Inc., a 762 million dollar global qui tam settlement with Amgen, Inc., and a 23.5 million dollar qui tam settlement with Medtronic, all with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice.  In addition, Sanford Heisler has filed over 20 other whistleblower actions now pending throughout the United States, and is currently investigating and drafting additional matters across the United States. For more information, contact Sanford Heisler at (646) 681-7373.

Marc Litton is with the Law Offices of Thomas Marc Litton in San Francisco and Ed Chapin is the founding partner of the San Diego Law firm Chapin Fitzgerald LLP.