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Fordham Financial Stockbrokers Win Conditional Certification Of Their Collective FLSA Action Regarding Wages

On February 14, 2012, two former brokers of Fordham Financial Management, Inc. (“Fordham Financial”), Christopher Griffith (“Griffith”) and David Speciale (“Speciale”), on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, filed an Opt-in Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) Collective Action against their former employer, Fordham Financial, and its President and Director, William Baquet (“Baquet”), for failure to pay minimum and overtime wages, and for improper wage deductions. See Christopher D. Griffith and David Speciale vs. Fordham Financial Management, Inc. and William Baquet, Index No. 12-cv-01117 (PAC) (S.D.N.Y.). The FLSA establishes standards for minimum wage and overtime pay. Employees can participate in an overtime collective action if they have been unlawfully denied overtime wages. To gain certification from a court of competent jurisdiction that a lawsuit for wages can proceed as an FLSA collective action, the employees must show that all employees who would join in the action are “similarly situated.” Griffith and Speciale alleged that Fordham Financial failed to compensate its employees with the New York state minimum wage for the hours worked, and one-and-a-half times their regular compensation rate as over-time for any hours worked in excess of the 40 hour work week, which was in violation of the terms of their employment. Moreover, Griffith and Speciale alleged that Fordham Financial illegally and improperly made deductions from their commissions, including deductions to pay assistants and support staff. On May 25, 2012, Fordham Financial and Baquet filed an Answer to the Complaint which denied the allegations and raised standard affirmative defenses. On December 14, 20012, Griffith and Speciale filed a Motion to Certify the FLSA Collective Action (“Motion to Certify”). Fordham Financial Opposed this Motion to Certify and filed 12 Declarations from current/former employees contesting the allegations set forth by Griffith and Speciale. On May 22, 2013, the Honorable Paul Crotty rendered an Opinion and Order granting Griffith and Speciale’s Motion to Certify. According to Judge Crotty’s Opinion and Order, “Griffith and Speciale have satisfied their ‘minimum burden’ of making a modest factual showing that they and other employees were victims of a common policy or plan. Plaintiffs’ Motion for conditional certification is granted.” See Opinion and Order, page 7, dated May 22, 2013. The Conditional Certification of an FLSA Collective action is always opt-in, which means that an individual who wants to participate in the potential judgment in the collective FLSA action must opt-in and chose to participate to be bound by the judgment. This is distinguishable from a Rule 23 Class Action, where class members need to opt-out if they decide they do not want to be bound by the class action judgment. The FLSA opt-in Collective Action would cover any Fordham Financial employee who was a stockbroker at any Fordham Financial office location from February 14, 2006 through February 14, 2012. Judge Crotty ordered that Fordham Financial provide Griffith and Speciale the contact information for all stockbrokers employed by Fordham Financial within the 6 year period so that Griffith and Speciale can notify all potential opt-in plaintiffs of this pending litigation.

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