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Yahoo Finance Exclusive: Bloomberg employees sue for overtime pay

Nicole Goodkind
Nicole Goodkind
Bloomberg

Yahoo has learned of new developments in a lawsuit filed against Bloomberg LP by the law firm Getman Sweeney in 2014. The original complaint filed alleged that the financial software and media company violated federal law by failing to compensate hundreds of former and current employees for overtime pay beginning in 2012.

Bloomberg LP is run by Michael Bloomberg who is worth $36.9 billion, according to Forbes.

The case was certified for class action status on May 26. It claims that Bloomberg analytics employees were required to start work before their scheduled shift, work during lunch hours and after their shift ended. The suit also claims that Bloomberg violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by giving employees a compensatory day off for weekend and holiday work instead of receiving overtime pay.

Current and former analytics employees were contacted about the lawsuit on May 27, and will have 60 days to opt in. Analytics employees work with clients to troubleshoot issues with Bloomberg terminals. One former employee who was an analytics worker described the job as being yelled at by "as many as four clients simultaneously through the Bloomberg chat function and/or on the phone. As soon as you fixed one problem, he says, "another from the dreaded ‘queue’ would get routed to you."

This former employee, who worked at Bloomberg from 2011 to 2012, claims that analytics team members were expected to remain at work 15 to 20 minutes after their shift ended. But in order to move up in the company, he says, employees would often work many hours past their shift-end without overtime compensation. No one explicitly forced these employees to work that late, but if they didn't they would be passed over for promotions. He says he was asked to miss lunch a handful of times each year and work every third or fourth holiday but, “compared to the real finance world the overall hours were a cakewalk.”

He claims that management was far removed from employees and that policies and practices were "questionable." "No lower-level managers dared challenge upper management's views, primarily out of a fear of petty retribution," he says. "Stories of egotistical upper-level managers feeling slighted and squashing burgeoning young careers abounded, bureaucracy and hubris ran unchecked, celebrated even."

Bloomberg is well-known for its generous benefits and pay but also for its controlling work culture. The company has a history of tracking employees whereabouts.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, salaried workers are eligible for time-and-a-half compensation beyond 40 hours of work a week and for work on weekends and holidays. New York State law requires the same compensation. There are, however, exceptions to these standards and that's where the nuances of this lawsuit lie. Computer employees (computer systems analysts, computer programmers, software engineers or other similarly skilled worker in the computer field) who make more than $27.63 an hour, for example, can sometimes be exempt.

Eric M. Roseman, the former Bloomberg employee who first filed suit, refused to comment on the case.

Getman Sweeney currently lists three open overtime lawsuits against Bloomberg on its website. Last year Bloomberg settled an overtime suit with The Ottinger Firm on behalf of tech support workers for $5.4 million. The 428 employees involved in the suit each received around $12,600.

Lawyer Dan Getman of Getman Sweeney says that Bloomberg has a history of not paying employees fairly. A 2011 Department of Labor audit obtained by Getman's firm under the Freedom of Information Act found that 346 Bloomberg employees across 30 job positions were wrongly labeled exempt from overtime. In April 2013 the DOL and Bloomberg agreed that 29 positions should be reclassified and the issue was marked as resolved.

According to Getman, large companies will sometimes make the decision to violate labor laws and potentially suffer the consequences instead of hiring more employees or paying extra.

Bloomberg denies that it violated the law. A spokesperson declined to comment on the case.

The complaint also seeks compensation under New York State law for employees who worked between 2008 and 2015 but its class-action status has yet to be determined in court.

The case is pending in the United States District Court in the Southern District of New York.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Getman Sweeney settled a suit on behalf of Bloomberg tech support workers, the law firm was actually The Ottinger Firm.