Los Angeles employment attorney Richard Simmons won his arguments against a recent interpretation of the wage-hour state law that could have cost companies millions of dollars in overtime pay.

Simmons is a partner at Los Angeles-based Sheppard Mullin & Hampton LLP and author of the Wage and Hour Manual for California Employers.

The state's Industrial Welfare Commission, which enforces the wage-hour laws, voted 4-1 on Oct. 29 in favor of Simmons' opinion and against the opinion of Miles Locker, the former head of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. Locker issued an interpretation in May that would have required companies to pay exempt employees a full month's salary, even if they work only one hour a month or be forced to change their exempt status.

Simmons' view, which was backed by several employment attorneys, aligns more with the federal law, which does not require employers to pay salaried employees if they take time off without using vacation or sick days.

"If his opinions had been upheld, it would have cost Californians billions of dollars in liability no question about it," Simmons said. "It would have made the Farmers' case for $90 million the interest charge on a monthly bank account."

Ford Trial

Two local attorneys are going up against Ford Motor Co. in the first trial in California over claimed defects in the Ford Explorer.

Garo Mardirossian of Mardirossian & Associates in Los Angeles and Charles O'Reilly of Marina del Rey represent a couple who were driving to Las Vegas in 1997 with their children and a relative when the Explorer hit a wall and overturned. The husband suffered severe leg injuries, and the wife was paralyzed.

The attorneys began arguments Nov. 1 in Barstow Superior Court.

The only other trial in the United States concerning alleged defects in the Ford Explorer was in Texas. The case was settled Sept. 19 before the trial could begin.

Torn Up

Actor Rip Torn ("The Larry Sanders Show," "Men in Black") won the latest Hollywood cybersquatting case over the domain name "riptorn.com."

Jonathan Sokol, partner at Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP in Los Angeles, represented Torn in his dispute against a Canadian citizen who registered for the name, but didn't use it. The case was handled through the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers' Uniform Name Dispute Resolution Policy.

Torn's dispute involves the most modern of cybersquatters, Sokol said.

"Cybersquatters aren't as dumb as they used to be," he said. "They don't call up and say, 'Hey, I'll sell your name for $100,000.' They'll just sit on them and hoard them and wait for [the actor] to contact them."

Staff Reporter Amanda Bronstad can be reached at (323) 549-5225 ext. 225 or at abronstad@labusinessjournal.com.

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