Monday, June 13, 2016

Howard Liberman Joins Mastagni Hosltedt as Los Angeles Office Managing Attorney

Howard A. Liberman

Managing Attorney, Los Angeles Office

Office: 916-318-4601
Cell: 310-701-5582


"We are pleased to welcome Howard to our firm as our Los Angeles Managing Attorney; his experience will allow us to further service the firm's regional and statewide clients."
-David P. Mastagni, Founding                 Partner

With more than 65 attorneys and negotiators, Mastagni Holstedt, A.P.C. is the largest law firm representing law enforcement and firefighters in California and the U.S., dedicated to representing clients in the protection and advancement of public safety officers and their rights.  Mastagni Holstedt, A.P.C. has gained state and national recognition in the area of Labor and Employment as an AV-rated preeminent law firm by Martindale Hubbell, and is listed among the "Top Law Firms" in the Sacramento Business Journal, and has been recognized as a top law firm by Forbes and Fortune Magazines.


Mastagni Holstedt, A.P.C. is pleased to announce that Howard A. Liberman has joined the firm's Labor and Employment Practice as the Los Angeles Office Managing Attorney. 

Howard has been practicing law since 1992 and began his legal career in the United States Navy as a member of the Judge Advocate General's Corps.  He served on active duty for five years as a defense attorney, prosecutor, and Assistant Staff Judge Advocate (in house counsel) to a two-star admiral.  Howard affiliated with the Navy Reserve serving as a defense attorney, legal assistance attorney, appellate defense counsel, and executive officer.  In 2014, he retired from the Navy with the rank of Commander.

In 1997, Howard began practicing public sector labor law focusing his civilian practice on labor and employment, with an emphasis on public safety disciplinary defense and collective bargaining.  For nearly two decades, Howard has successfully litigated numerous appeals of administrative discipline in both the Superior Court and the Court of Appeal on behalf of police officers and firefighters wrongly accused of misconduct throughout California.

Howard is a graduate of Bloomsburg University (1989) and Temple University School of Law (J.D. 1992). He is a native of Scranton, Pennsylvania and is an avid Philadelphia sports fan. Howard resides in the West L.A. area with his wife and two daughters.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Cash-in-Lieu of Health Benefits is Included in Rate Calculations Under FLSA

If you receive cash in lieu of healthcare benefits, you may be entitled to additional overtime compensation from your employer.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal recently ruled that cash payments made to employees who declined medical coverage had to be included in the regular rate used to calculate the employees’ overtime compensation.

In Flores v. City of San Gabriel, the Ninth Circuit ruled the City of San Gabriel willfully violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) by failing to include cash payments for unused medical benefits in police officers’ overtime calculations. The court also ruled that money the City paid out to third parties for officers’ benefits had to be included in their overtime rate. Under 29 U.S.C. section 207(e)(4), payments to third parties or trustees made pursuant to a “bona fide plan” for providing health insurance benefits could be excluded from the regular rate used to calculate overtime. The court found that the City’s plan was not a “bona fide plan” because approximately 40% of the City’s total contributions were paid directly to employees, rather than received as benefits.

Many public employers give employees a cash incentive for opting out of employer-provided medical coverage. The court’s ruling in Flores establishes that such incentives must be included in the regular rate used to calculate overtime for employees who receive them.  Not many employers do this.

If your agency offers cash in lieu of medical benefits, you may have a claim for unpaid overtime and liquidated damages in an amount equal to the unpaid overtime (e.g. double damages) under the FLSA. While your agency may fix this issue going forward, you will likely need to file a lawsuit to recover backpay. Under the FLSA, an employee can only recover damages for unpaid wages that occurred within the last three years. As such, it is important to pursue an FLSA claim immediately.

If you are represented by our office and your agency offers cash in lieu of medical benefits, you should call our office or your union immediately to discuss the matter.