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Merrill Lynch, BofA Hit With OT Claims By Ex-Trainees

Law360—Michael Lipkin

Two former Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. financial adviser trainees launched a proposed class action in New York federal court Thursday against the brokerage and its parent Bank of America Corp., alleging it failed to pay them for the up to 30 hours of overtime they worked each week. 

Plaintiffs Andrew Blum and Zaq Harrison claimed they were development trainees in Merrill Lynch’s practice management development program, tasked with generating leads for the company and convincing potential clients to do business with Merrill Lynch. They accuse Merrill Lynch and Bank of America of systematically denying them overtime pay in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and Maryland state law.

Blum claims he and others at the Florida office worked 50-hour weeks, with another four to 12 hours each week at client prospecting functions at night. He also worked up to eight hours on weekends at similar events, according to the suit.

Harrison said he spent 60 hours a week at work in Maryland, with nearly 13-hour days Monday through Thursday. He also worked eight hours on Sundays and attended the client functions, according to the complaint.

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The plaintiffs are seeking to represent a national class of former trainees who worked at Merrill Lynch since August 2011, along with a Maryland subclass.

The company allegedly encouraged its trainees to work overtime while identifying, evaluating and calling potential clients before meeting with them in person to encourage them to take their business to Merrill Lynch, according to the suit.

“Pursuant to corporate policies formulated in whole or in part at defendants’ headquarters in New York, and applicable at defendants’ locations nationwide, defendants have misclassified development stage trainees as exempt from federal overtime pay requirements,” the plaintiffs said.

The plaintiffs are represented by Gregg I. Shavitz and Paolo C. Meireles of Shavitz Law Group PA and Justin M. Swartz, Rachel Bien and Jahan C. Sagafi of Outten & Golden LLP.

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The case is Andrew Blum et al. v. Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. et al., case number 1:15-cv-01636, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.