By Brendan O'Brien
NEW YORK, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Merrill Lynch has agreed to a
settlement with more than 5,000 broker assistants who filed a
class action accusing the financial services firm of failing to
properly pay overtime.
In the agreement announced on Friday, Merrill Lynch, which
is part of Bank of America, will create a $12 million fund to be
used to pay wages, overtime compensation and attorney fees to
the assistants, known as client associates, who claimed the firm
violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.
In June 2011, Nancy Martignago, a Merrill Lynch employee
since 1985, filed a lawsuit on behalf of herself and other
non-exempt client associates in U.S. District Court for the
Southern District of New York.
The suit alleged that the firm required associates, who
assist financial advisors, to work more than 40 hours a week but
failed to pay overtime.
Client associates, for fear of "disturbing their
compensation agreements," did not refuse to work overtime nor
did they raise the issue with superiors, the suit said.
Merrill Lynch pays a base salary to client associates, who
also earn commissions from the financial advisor they work for,
according to the lawsuit.
Merrill Lynch was also accused of not keeping records of
overtime worked by the associates and, at times, erasing or
modifying their recorded time in order to eliminate or reduce
In addition, the suit accused Merrill Lynch of gender
discrimination by steering women away from higher-level
The settlement, which still must be approved by the court,
would provide for financial recovery for client associates who
worked for the company between 2010 and 2012.
The covered time period in New York begins in 2006. In
California it begins in 2008, and in Washington and Maryland in
Merrill Lynch declined to comment on the case.
The case is Martignago v. Merrill Lynch, U.S. District Court
for the Southern District of New York, No. 11CIV03923.
For the client associates: Shona Glink, Linda Friedman and
Jennifer Gilbert of Stowell & Friedman.
For Merrill Lynch: Janell Ahnert and Stephen Brown of
Maynard, Cooper & Gale.
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