Bankruptcy Firm Settles Paralegal's OT Wages Suit

By Nathan Hale
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Law360 (November 16, 2020, 4:06 PM EST) -- Florida bankruptcy firm Kingcade Garcia McMaken has reached a settlement in a federal wage lawsuit brought by a paralegal who claimed she was not paid overtime despite long workweeks and never received emergency sick time compensation when she had COVID-19.

Details of the firm's agreement with Mayra Santos-Urquiola were not immediately available Monday. The parties asked the court in a notice filed Friday to advise them on what information it will require when considering the fairness of the deal. They also indicated that the settlement requires either court approval or supervision from the U.S. Department of Labor since the case involves a claim for unpaid overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Santos-Urquiola claimed in her Aug. 17 complaint that the Miami firm violated the Fair Labor Standards Act throughout her 16-year tenure and, more recently, ran afoul of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act when she took time off after her COVID-19 diagnosis.

The firm and principal Timothy S. Kingcade "knowingly and willfully" failed to pay overtime wages to Santos-Urquiola, according to the complaint, filed in the Southern District of Florida. The complaint did not say if Santos-Urquiola is still employed with the firm.

The paralegal began working for the firm in 2004. Her duties included interviewing the firm's clients and preparing four bankruptcy petitions per day for $50 each, but she didn't get paid if a client didn't ultimately sign the petition, the complaint said.

Santos-Urquiola alleged she logged in 60 to 70 hours per week, sometimes working on Saturdays, but never received any overtime pay. The FLSA requires overtime pay at a rate of time and a half for wage earners who work more than 40 hours per week, with certain exemptions.

On July 31, after experiencing symptoms, Santos-Urquiola took a coronavirus test that came out positive, the complaint said. She claimed her doctor advised her to self-quarantine and take off work for 14 days.

Santos-Urquiola informed the firm about her illness and provided her positive test results and medical record indicating that she needed to take two weeks off, staying home from work from Aug. 1 to Aug. 10, the complaint said.

Santos-Urquiola took another coronavirus test on Aug. 10 that came out negative, but she continued to experience symptoms and told the firm that she still felt ill, according to the complaint.

Kingcade directed her to return to work "upon the threat of suspension for failure to do so," the complaint said. He told her that working remotely wasn't an option because it was essential that she meet with clients in person.

Santos-Urquiola claimed she wasn't paid for the time she took off while sick with COVID-19, in violation of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.

Representatives for the parties didn't immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.

Santos-Urquiola is represented by Mark J. Beutler of the Law Offices of Mark J. Beutler PA.

The defendants are represented by Jennifer Altman of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.

The case is Mayra Santos-Urquiola v. Kingcade & Garcia PA et al., case number 1:20-cv-23416, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

--Additional reporting by Jeannie O'Sullivan. Editing by Steven Edelstone.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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Case Information

Case Title

Santos-Urquiola v. Kingcade & Garcia, P.A. et al


Case Number

1:20-cv-23416

Court

Florida Southern

Nature of Suit

Labor: Fair Standards

Judge

Jonathan Goodman

Date Filed

August 17, 2020

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