Wildfire Cleanup Workers Move for Wage-and-Hour Settlement

Lagarion Brown, Roy Jackson, Yaphett Saunders, Isaac Saunders, Hakeem Allambie, and Nichlon Garrett have filed a motion seeking conditional class-action status and preliminary approval of a settlement in their unpaid wages case against Tetra Tech, Inc and affiliates.

The parties have agreed on a settlement amount of $600,000 which will result in an average class member receiving $1,215. 

In June 2020, the plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging that Tetra, its subsidiaries, parents, or affiliate companies failed to pay workers for all the hours they worked, including overtime,  assessing and cleaning up after forest fires, including 2018’s devastating fire in Paradise, California. They further allege that Tetra failed to provide adequate meal and rest breaks as required by California law. 

Based on documents provided during discovery, the plaintiffs predicted a maximum possible damages, penalties, and interest of  $1,354,302. From this the parties, through mediation performed by Jeffrey Krivis, agreed on a final settlement amount of $600,000, of which $200,000 will go to attorney’s fees, $18,000 to litigation costs, $60,000 to enhancement awards, $5,000 to settlement administration, and $37,500 in penalties to California’s Labor & Workforce Development Agency. The remainder will be divided among all 230 class members based on the number of hours worked. For reference, per their 2021 annual report, Tetra generated roughly $500 million in profit. 

Of particular concern to the plaintiffs regarding the settlement amount were fears that their Private Attorney General Act claim would be reduced or ruled against on account of being “unjust and oppressive.” Class representatives were also concerned that lengthy legal proceedings could threaten the economic security of their class members.

The suit is ongoing in the Eastern District of California, where the undercompensated work took place. Plaintiffs are represented by Mallison and Martinez, and the defendants are represented by Akerman, LLP and Sidley Austin, LLP.