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When Olga Zamora took her first post-college job in April 2000 as a sales assistant in the Miami office of investment bank Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette Inc., she knew she would be working long hours. She set up meetings, helped brokers with research duties, performed secretarial duties, even fetched coffee. Often, she says, she would have to come in early in the morning before the stock market opened at 9:30 a.m. and then stay late into the night, finishing paperwork after the market closed for the day at 4 p.m. “Brokers are always working late, and since we work as a team it was understood that we, the assistants, would be there, too,” Zamora, 24, said in a recent interview. “There’s no time to get paperwork done while the market is still open.” Even though Zamora was technically an hourly employee, she claims that neither she nor any of the other mostly female assistants was paid overtime when they had to work more than 40 hours a week. That practice, she says, continued when Donaldson Lufkin was acquired in August 2000 by Zurich-based Credit Suisse First Boston Corp. The company is one of the world’s largest securities firms, with more than $400 billion in assets. On Monday, Zamora filed a lawsuit in Miami’s U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida against Credit Suisse, alleging that the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by refusing to pay overtime. The suit seeks back overtime pay for Zamora and others like her. Zamora and her attorney, Jonathan E. Perlman, a partner in the Miami law firm Genovese Lichtman Joblove & Battista, are seeking class action status for the suit. They hope to include hundreds, perhaps thousands, of similar Credit Suisse employees across the country. Credit Suisse operates about 87 offices worldwide and employs more than 28,000. Victoria Harmond, a spokeswoman for Credit Suisse’s corporate headquarters, said the company had no comment. HOURLY PAY Suits filed against other large brokerage firms for withholding overtime pay have been settled for millions of dollars. Perlman is seeking to include in his client’s suit hourly employees who worked for the company within the last three years and are not exempt from the FLSA. Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette was not named as a defendant in the suit because it is now owned by Credit Suisse. The suit claims that the companies’ sales assistants, telemarketers, cashiers, receptionists, clerks and wire operators were told by Credit Suisse officials that they are eligible under the FLSA, a Depression-era federal statute that mandates time-and-a-half pay for anything beyond a 40-hour workweek. This was divulged through the handbooks and manuals the company provided for its hew hires, according to Perlman. And all of these employees were treated as hourly employees in every way, in provisions for vacation days and sick days, for example, except for their lack of payment for overtime. The suit also claims that Credit Suisse employees like Zamora worked hours they were not allowed to record or submit to Credit Suisse for payment; that they were not paid for all of the hours worked in a given week; and that Credit Suisse did not keep records of the hours maintained by nonexempt employees like Zamora, as required by the act. Finally, the suit alleges that prior to May 2001, Credit Suisse did not post the required summary of employees’ right to overtime pay, as required by the act. After Zamora was hired as a sales assistant, she says that it did not take her long to figure out that there was an “unwritten rule” at Credit Suisse that overtime pay was not available or allowed, and that there was no method in which to submit hours for payment of overtime compensation. At the same time, all of her tasks proved to be impossible to finish without working more than 40 hours a week, she claims. The salary for Zamora’s position ranges from about $26,000 to $33,000, depending on an employee’s experience. It wasn’t until March of this year, Zamora alleges, that she learned from another employee that Credit Suisse by law was not allowed to withhold overtime pay. “Before, I was just told that it was the ‘nature of the business,’ ” Zamora said. “ Maybe I should have noticed what was going on before. I guess I was a little naive.” A SUDDEN DEPOSIT Before filing the suit, Zamora said, she did try to go through regular channels. She said she raised the issue with the company’s human resources department in New York, but that it was difficult for the company to gauge what she was owed because there were no records of her overtime hours. Then, one day in early June, Zamora said, she inexplicably received a direct deposit to her checking account from the company to help cover her overtime pay. She wouldn’t say how much she received, but said there was no way the amount could have been an accurate representation of what she was owed. She said after she received the deposit, she received a recorded message on her answering machine at home telling her that the deposit was put into her account to make her “feel whole.” After that incident, Zamora says, she began trying to calculate what overtime she was owed since she began working for the company. Then she called the U.S. Department of Labor and filed a complaint. But after a few months, all the department would tell her was that an investigator had been assigned to the matter. She still has not been contacted by the investigator to discuss the complaint. She hired Perlman as her attorney two weeks ago. The Labor Department had no comment on the investigation. Perlman said he does not know what percentage of the work force is made up of hourly employees like Zamora who are not exempt from the Labor Act. He does estimate that many employees like Zamora may be entitled to as much as $10,000 each in backpay. OTHER BROKERAGES Perlman has experience with these suits. Within the last 12 months he represented the class plaintiffs in a Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuit against Smith Barney Inc. The size of the settlement was sealed by a court. Other brokerage houses have been defendants in overtime-related class actions in recent years. Prudential Securities, PaineWebber, and Raymond James & Associates have settled cases that covered sales assistants nationwide. Merrill Lynch is negotiating an overtime claim and Morgan Stanley is facing overtime charges from several Colorado employees. In April 1999, Salomon Smith Barney settled an overtime-related lawsuit for about $8 million. PaineWebber and Prudential Securities settled overtime suits in 1998 for $3.5 million and $4.5 million, respectively. Also in 1998, Raymond James paid a $319,000 court settlement, as well as $160,000 to a separate group of 32 employees, for overtime grievances. Jonathan Alpert, who also settled an overtime suit against Smith Barney, said that big companies, even sophisticated brokerage firms, often don’t understand or care that if an hourly employee stays at work to finish a job, they have to pay overtime. He adds that even when a suit is filed, many people are afraid to come forward. They would rather be exploited than risk losing their job. But many workers are starting to stand up for themselves, as the previous cases show. “You see the same problems all over the country,” he said. “And workers are waking up to what they are owed.” Jose Arrojo, an associate with Berger Singerman in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., advises corporations on labor issues and says it is important to have an overtime policy in place. Because potential liability can extend back two years, three if the court finds the nonpayment by the company to be willful, such actions can become costly. Furthermore, damages in such employment cases can be doubled under the Fair Labor Standards Act. “Companies need to be vigilant,” he said. “One claim here and there may not seem much, but over time it can really add up.”

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