1/23/2012 8:10 PM By Marilyn Tennissen
HOUSTON - A group of paralegals seeking overtime pay from the Mostyn Law Firm has received conditional class certification from a federal judge.
Lead plaintiff Sherri Davis says the law firm of Steven Mostyn denied overtime pay to paralegals who worked more than 40 hours in a week in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
On Jan. 19, U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison of the Southern District of Texas granted certification for a class of current and former salaried paralegals going back to Aug. 3, 2008.
Mostyn made millions representing thousands of property owners in suits against insurance companies following Hurricane Rita in 2005 and Hurricane Ike in 2008. The Texas Windstorm Insurance Agency settled its Hurricane Ike claims for $189 million.
Davis worked as a paralegal at the Mostyn Law Firm's Houston office from June 2007 to February 2009. She claims she often worked more than 70 hours a week but was paid a salary for 40 hours of work.
She filed a lawsuit in August on behalf of herself and others similarly situated, claiming they were misclassified as exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Another former paralegal, Carlos Alvarado, later joined the suit.
Mostyn had argued that Alvarado made false statements and conflicting testimony regarding his knowledge of the classification and pay of other paralegals.
Davis and Alvarado, Mostyn claimed, also submitted "virtually identical sworn declarations, which included identical descriptions of their job duties to substantiate that they were misclassified under the FLSA."
He said that Davis and Alvarado had not worked at his firm for more than a year, making them different from paralegals currently working there. He also claimed that the plaintiffs were not similarly situated because they had various job duties, different titles and were in different locations.
Ellison rejected the argument, based on statements by Davis that she had been told by the firm's office manager that no salaried employee received overtime pay. She also said she had conversations with salaried paralegals who verified they too had been denied overtime.
"With these declarations, plaintiffs have established that there is a reasonable basis to believe other aggrieved individuals exist," Ellison wrote.
"The court finds that plaintiffs have shown a reasonable basis that others will join the lawsuit because additional plaintiffs have joined the lawsuit since its inception, in conjunction with the fact that the plaintiffs have named other paralegals who worked overtime without being paid at an overtime rate."
Mostyn succeeded in narrowing the class definition to salaried paralegals only, not legal assistants or non-salaried paralegals.
The plaintiffs are represented by Alex Mabry of the Mabry Law Firm PLLC in Houston.
William R. Stukenberg of Meyer White LLP in Houston is representing the Mostyn Firm.
Case No. 4:11-cv-02874