A Superior Court jury awarded a total of $276,000 in unpaid overtime Friday to four former employees of Edwards Theatres Circuit Inc. but deadlocked on seven others with similar claims.
The four who won the award--Richard Saulnier, Craig Tarbet, Mike McDonnell and Spencer Rhodes--were among a dozen former employees who claimed the Newport Beach entertainment company had misclassified them as salaried managers instead of hourly employees to avoid paying overtime. The jury also awarded unpaid interest on the amount owed.
Jurors were unable to agree on claims of seven other plaintiffs. They decided that one former employee, David Holmes, wasn't eligible.
After a six-week trial, the jury's mixed decision left lawyers for both sides claiming victory.
James S. Davis, the plaintiffs' lawyer, said he believes the $276,000 award is the largest ever handed down in an overtime-pay case in Orange County. The seven deadlocked cases are set for a new trial early next year, he said.
David Finkle, Edwards' lawyer, said the jury's decision Friday meant that employee claims for overtime should be considered individually.
"Just because one theater manager has decided on his own to sweep floors and do hourly work and convinces somebody they're entitled to overtime doesn't have any effect whatsoever on other managers," he said. "Each situation has to be reviewed on an individual basis."
Finkle said he'll ask the court to review the jury award to the four and may appeal.
Both parties also said the decision bodes well for the outcome of a similar lawsuit filed earlier this year by another former Edwards employee, Michael Lewis. Lewis seeks the court to declare his case a class action to represent more than 100 other current and former Edwards employees.
In the case decided Friday, the dozen former employees claimed they each worked an average of 60 to 80 hours a week and filled in for hourly employees, Davis said.
Under state law, employers are required to pay hourly workers overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week.