DAYTON – A cash settlement was reached Thursday in a civil lawsuit brought against Airstream in Jackson Center by current and former employees for labor violations. The agreement impacts the 21 plaintiffs involved in the suit.
Judge Walter Rice in U.S. District Court in Dayton approved the settlement that calls for a $117,053 payment to Sandra Funk of Sidney regarding her personal claims with another $21,338 to be evenly divided between 21 employees, including Funk.
Rice noted in court records the settlement is based on Federal Law Rule 68, which states Airstream (owned by Thor Industries) is not admitting guilt or liability in the claims, which was confirmed by both attorneys.
Court papers filed by attorneys indicate a desire to end ongoing litigation was the key motivating factor.
On March 1, 2018, Funk, 44, 8262 Lochard Road, filed the suit seeking compensation for an alleged miscalculation of overtime pay; to allow all employees affected by the same pay method to join the class action; class action as a violation of the Ohio Prompt Pay Act (OPPA); violating the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) with interference of her rights; and, for a violation of the Fair Market Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for retaliation actions towards her.
Once initiated, Airstream employee Mark Satterly requested the suit give current and former Airstream employees the choice of joining a class action for the overtime pay in question. The settlement will be paid in addition to payments already received by employees from the company.
Funk’s attorney, Matthew J.P. Coffman of Columbus, said “Airstream and Thor made the offer of judgment in order to encourage settlement and avoid protracted litigation.”
In addition, he said, “Although we would have liked to continue litigating the lawsuit to a final decision on the merits, we are satisfied that every employee who worked within the applicable three-year lookback period and who decided to join the case will be receiving additional pay as a result of their decision to join the lawsuit.”
Airstream attorney Vladimir Belo of Columbus when asked direct questions in writing regarding the lawsuit settlement submitted a prepared statement from Airstream.
It states, “At the core of our DNA is a culture of respect and support for the almost 1,000 associates who choose to join us in building the world’s most iconic recreational vehicles. It’s one of the reasons we have the outstanding and loyal workforce that we have, and why we remain an employer of choice in Shelby County.”
Two-year employment period in question
According to court records, Funk was employed as a fulltime employee with the company from June 2015 until June 28, 2017. It’s during this time she claimed the company miscalculated the pay rate for overtime hours worked.
Coffman claimed this was a violation of the FLSA, the OPPA and the Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act.
The suit claimed Airstream did not pay the overtime rate of 1 ½ times the regular hourly rate for a 40-hour work week. It accused the company of compensating employees with additional forms of remuneration such as nondiscretionary bonuses in addition to their employees’ hourly rates of pay.
Payment programs noted in court records included an AIR Bonus Pool and Attendance Bonus. Funk claims the bonus payouts were not calculated using the regular pay hourly rate.
Medical leave act violation claimed
In March 2017, Funk developed a medical condition that required ongoing, and at times, immediate, medical care. She was absent from work from March 12 to April 10, 2017, claiming she qualified for the terms of the FMLA. Airstream officials approved Funk for the leave, according to court records.
On July 12, she received a letter stating that she was terminated for numerous failures of attendance. It was noted in the letter that Funk did not promptly request a medical leave. She claimed it was retaliation against her for using the FMLA.
Also, Funk claimed she was not notified of her eligibility for medical coverage, if she began paying the premiums, when she was terminated. Employees may participate in the COBRA program (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) and continue their health coverage, once they are terminated.
Funk stated she was not notified of the COBRA option. Coffman claimed his client was eligible to receive the $110 per day penalty from the company for the non-disclosure, all medical expenses during that time, attorney fees and court-related costs.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.