New Jersey collections law firm Pressler, Felt & Warshaw has agreed to a $115,000 settlement to resolve claims it violated wage-and-hour laws by failing to pay overtime to an information technology employee.
The law firm, which was known as Pressler & Pressler until last March, agreed to the settlement in U.S. District Court in Newark, along with New Century Financial Services Inc., a debt collector that regularly works with the firm. U.S. District Judge Claire Cecchi approved the settlement last Friday.
Pressler Felt was sued in August 2017 by Scott Rosenblatt, who was an IT hardware technician. Rosenblatt was scheduled to work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but some of his duties, such as updating the firm’s servers, could only be performed late at night or on the weekend, his lawsuit asserted. Rosenblatt was hired in 2009, but in October 2012, the firm switched Rosenblatt’s status from an hourly to a salaried employee. His duties and job title remained unchanged, but the law firm ceased paying Rosenblatt overtime.
The defendants wrongfully withheld more than $30,000 from Rosenblatt in the three-year period before the suit was filed, according to the complaint.
Rosenblatt complained numerous times to managers about having to perform work without pay on nights or weekends, the suit said. In one instance, he emailed the firm’s compliance manager in August 2015, asserting he was required to perform 180 hours of unpaid work during the prior year, in addition to his 40-hour workweeks, and asking why he was not paid for those hours.
He was told that the company’s policy was “no punching in when working remotely,” the suit said. He made further complaints about the policy in March 2016 and again in March 2017. In that instance, Rosenblatt complained to his boss that he had put in 12 to 15 hours of overtime in one weekend to update the firm’s servers, and complained it was unfair to expect him to work on weekends without compensation.
A few weeks later, he was told his services were no longer needed, and was terminated, according to his lawsuit. But two days afterward, the firm posted an advertisement for a new IT technician.
The suit brought claims for failure to pay overtime and retaliation in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law.
The suit emphasized that Rosenblatt was not employed by the firm as a computer systems analyst, computer programmer or software engineer, and his duties did not include designing, developing, creating or testing computer systems or programs. Furthermore, the suit said, Rosenblatt did not possess authority to commit the firm in financial matters, possess authority to implement management policies or operating practices, or possess the authority to deviate from established policies without approval.
Besides Pressler Felt, the suit named attorneys Sheldon Pressler and Gerald Felt as defendants. Sheldon Pressler died in December 2017 at age 87. Also named were New Century Financial Services Inc. and its vice president, Eric Sombers. According to the suit, the president of NCFSI, Lee Pressler, is a relation of Sheldon Pressler. Sombers has authority to make work assignments and rules for Pressler Felt’s IT department and to supervise and discipline employees in that department, and to hire and fire employees.
Pressler & Pressler was found in 1930 and held itself out as the largest and oldest law firm specializing in retail debt collection in New Jersey, the suit claimed. The law firm, based in Parsippany, became Pressler Felt in March 2018 to reflect its changed management, according to court papers.
Under the motion for approval of the settlement that was signed by Cecchi, the settlement will be paid from the estate of Sheldon Pressler.
Pressler & Pressler and New Century Financial Services have jointly faced monetary penalties in the past. In 2016 the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fined Pressler & Pressler $1 million and New Century $1.5 million for allegedly filing lawsuits to collect debts that do not exist.
Benjamin Curcio of Curcio Mirzaian Sirot in Roseland, who represented Rosenblatt, said through an assistant that the firm would not comment.
Bruce Nimensky and David Gray of Gray Law Group in Whippany, who represented the defendants, did not return calls seeking a comment.