Financial Advisor Trainee Overtime Lawsuits
Last Updated on March 22, 2021
Attorneys working with ClassAction.org are no longer investigating this matter. The information here is for reference only. A list of open investigations and lawsuits can be viewed here.
- March 22, 2021 – Investigation Closed
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At A Glance
- This Alert Affects:
- Current and former financial advisor trainees who weren't paid overtime.
- What's Going On?
- Allegations have surfaced that some banks are breaking federal law by not paying their financial advisor trainees overtime.
Allegations have surfaced that some banks are misclassifying these employees as exempt – or ineligible to receive overtime – when, in actuality, they should be earning time-and-a-half pay for every hour worked over 40 in a single workweek. Bank of America and Merrill Lynch have already been hit with lawsuits, but attorneys are trying to determine whether this alleged practice is widespread – and whether other banks can be sued.
Bank of America, Merrill Lynch Hit with Lawsuits from Trainees
In March 2015, two former financial advisor trainees sued Bank of America and Merrill Lynch saying they should have received overtime – but didn’t. According to the lawsuit, the banks misclassified their financial advisor trainees as exempt from overtime, a practice the plaintiffs say violates a federal law known as the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The suit says that the banks “encouraged and required” trainees to work more than 40 hours a week but failed to provide them with any extra pay. The plaintiffs say that they worked weekends and 10-hour days – and even sometimes worked through lunch breaks.
According to the suit, the trainees’ long days often consisted of:
- Evening functions, including client prospecting events
- Nightly phone calls
- After-hours meetings with staff
Four similar lawsuits were filed against Morgan Stanley and, in 2016, settled collectively for $6 million.
Should Financial Advisor Trainees Receive Overtime?
The fact is, most employees are entitled to overtime pay when working more than 40 hours per week. You’re only not entitled to extra pay if you fall into one of the narrow exemptions to federal overtime law.
These exemptions usually cover people like:
- Computer systems analysts, programmers and software engineers
- Lawyers and doctors
- Outside sales employees
It’s important to remember that job duties – not job titles – determine whether someone is entitled to overtime pay. According to the lawsuit filed against Bank of America and Merrill Lynch, financial advisor trainees’ main duties include inside sales and customer service – tasks that usually don’t make someone exempt. The lawsuit notes that the trainees had little or no “independent discretion and judgment,” meaning that they couldn’t be considered ineligible for overtime under the administrative exemption, which applies to some employees in the financial industry.
It’s also important to keep in mind that:
- Just because you’re paid salary doesn’t mean you’re disqualified from overtime pay
- Your employer is prohibited by federal law from retaliating against you
- The law decides whether you’re exempt – not your employer
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