Since the landmark decision in Bell v. Farmer's Insurance, holding that typical insurance adjusters are "production workers" who are entitled to overtime pay, most large insurance companies have revised their policies to either reduce adjustors' work schedules to 40-hour weeks and 8-hour days, or have begun paying overtime to adjusters who work longer hours. Still, it has been too little and too late for the large-scale violators to avoid liability for back pay owing to adjusters who worked long hours under the old policies. While most insurers continue to argue that their adjusters are exempt administrative employees, since the Bell case, courts have routinely granted summary judgment or summary adjudication motions in favor of the claims adjusters. Invariably, once the companies lose thos motions, settlements follow.
State Farm Insurance is the latest to come to terms with its adjusters. Earlier this month, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Anthony Mohr approved a $135 million settlement in an overtime class action involving 2,600 claims adjusters in California. Typically, the employees would work six to seven hours of overtime each week. Many worked weekends. Until the policy changed, none of the adjusters ever received overtime pay. Because the adjusters worked such long hours, for such a long period of time, the average award for each plaintiff submitting a claim is expected to be approximately $34,000. Those with the maximum claim -- workers who were denied overtime pay for eight years -- could expect a settlement of as much as $64,000 each.
The State Farm case is one of the oldest wage and hour class action cases still pending in California. The case was filed in 2000; the settlement was reached in 2004, after the court ruled in favor of the class on a determination of whether the adjusters were exempt from overtime pay entitlement.