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Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP | 20th Anniversary 2004 - 2024

Sanford Heisler Sharp Wins Class Certification on Behalf of Alaska Telecom Sales Employees Suing for Unpaid Overtime

Posted August 29th, 2018.

August 29, 2018, Alaska – Attorneys at Sanford Heisler Sharp today announced the certification of an overtime class action brought against Alaska Communications Systems (“ACS”).

An Alaska federal judge yesterday certified a class of 67 sales employees who were denied overtime pay by ACS over more than eight years.   The sales employees allege that the telecommunications company misclassified them as exempt from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the Alaska Wage and Hour Act (“AWHA”).  They seek to recover damages totaling upwards of $10 million.

In a 39-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess ruled that Plaintiff Laura Lee Peterson and her counsel had satisfied the requirements under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and demonstrated that class certification of the AWHA claims should be granted.

The decision was the second time that the court had granted class certification in the case.  On December 17, 2014, Judge Burgess conditionally certified an FLSA collective action.   Yesterday’s decision is expected to vastly increase the number of claims facing ACS.

“It’s a huge win for the Plaintiff and the class,” said Michael Palmer, co-chair of Sanford Heisler Sharp's wage and hour practice.  “Ms. Peterson has been tenaciously litigating this case for years to get justice for ACS workers.  This decision moved us one enormous step closer to that goal.”

The case originally began with the filing of a charge in the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. On November 1, 2011, the agency notified ACS that it had misclassified Ms. Peterson as an exempt employee and owed her unpaid overtime compensation totaling more than $100,000.  After ACS refused to accept responsibility, Ms. Peterson filed a lawsuit against ACS on behalf herself and similar sales employees, alleging both federal and Alaska state overtime claims.

“Despite having more than eight years to fix the problem, ACS continues to refuse to pay workers for their overtime,” said David Sanford, chair of Sanford Heisler Sharp. “This litigation seeks to end Alaska Communications Systems’s illegal practices.”

The court ordered counsel to submit a proposed class notice and scheduling order within 14 days.

“We look forward to notifying the class of Judge Burgess’s decision and moving forward to trial,” said Nicole Wiitala, an attorney at Sanford Heisler Sharp.

The Plaintiff and the class are represented by Michael Palmer and Nicole Wiitala of Sanford Heisler Sharp as well as Lee Holen of Lee Holen Law Office.

About Sanford Heisler Sharp

Sanford Heisler Sharp is a public interest class-action litigation law firm with offices in New York; Washington, D.C; San Francisco; Nashville; San Diego; and Baltimore.  Our attorneys have graduated from the nation’s top law schools, clerked for judges throughout the United States, and amassed extensive experience litigating and trying cases that have earned over one billion dollars for our clients.

The Firm specializes in civil rights and general public interest cases, representing plaintiffs with claims of employment discrimination, sexual violence, labor and wage violations, predatory lending, consumer fraud, and whistleblowing, among other claims. Along with a focus on class actions, the Firm also represents individuals and has achieved extraordinary success in the representation of executives and attorneys in employment disputes.

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