Reporting from Sacramento — California's labor commissioner has sued real estate brokerage ZipRealty Inc. for nearly $18 million, including back pay, in her department's largest minimum-wage enforcement action.
The complaint, filed Monday in Alameda County Superior Court, accused the Emeryville, Calif., firm of failing to pay minimum wages and overtime to hundreds of agents throughout the state.
ZipRealty markets homes statewide and nationally through the Internet but relies on employee agents to respond to online queries and shepherd deals to closing.
"In times like these, enforcement of the minimum wage is critical to maintaining a floor that allows workers to survive," California Labor Commissioner Julie Su said.
The ZipRealty case is a symptom of growing problems in the recession-wracked labor market, said Christine Baker, acting director of the state Department of Industrial Relations.
"Violations of minimum labor standards are now occurring in a wide variety of occupations," she said.
The suit stems partly from evidence in a recent Kern County case in which a judge found that ZipRealty frequently failed to pay agents even though they were employees entitled to minimum wages.
ZipRealty lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.
The lawsuit seeks about $7.5 million in unpaid minimum wages, $1.3 million in unpaid overtime and more than $9 million in damages and penalties.