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Former M&T Bank employees file lawsuit seeking overtime pay

Former M&T Bank employees say in a lawsuit the company owes them overtime.

Nine former employees of M&T Bank have filed a lawsuit accusing the bank of violating federal overtime law.

The former workers say they were hired to do compliance and analytical work, but instead performed data entry and routine clerical tasks, according to the lawsuit. Because of heavy caseloads and understaffing, they consistently worked as many as 60 hours each week and should have received time-and-a-half for overtime, they say.

Their argument hinges on the nature of their duties, which they say made them eligible for overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

"These people perceive they were unfairly paid," said Benjamin Davis, an attorney with the Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl, who is representing the plaintiffs. "We will vigorously represent them to be sure they receive what they are owed and ensure this injustice does not happen to any other employees."

The plaintiffs are seeking overtime wages as well as double damages on behalf of themselves and others who qualify to join the lawsuit. The case was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

M&T, based in Buffalo, N.Y., declined to comment, citing a company policy of not commenting on pending litigation, said Philip Hosmer, a spokesman.

The former workers had been recruited by M&T in 2013 from compliance departments at other major banks across the country to create a compliance department related to a proposed merger with Hudson City Bancorp., the lawsuit says. They were hired as "Enhanced Due Diligence Investigators" and paid a salary but did not perform work in that role.

The workers allege the type of work they did was not exempt from overtime requirements.

"Even though plaintiffs and others' job title, salary and prior experience raise an inference that they are exempt employees, the routine clerical work that they performed makes clear that they were misclassified," the lawsuit said. "Plaintiffs and others formed the belief that defendant's opening of the compliance division was to give the appearance that the concerns of the [Federal Reserve Bank of New York] were being addressed."

When they complained about the simplicity of their work, they were told to "dumb it down," "keep it simple" or just "comply with the guidelines" and were reminded that the main objective was to ensure the merger was approved.

The lawsuit also says that under-staffing forced M&T to hire bank tellers and other branch employees to fill the due diligence investigator positions, but that those workers did not have similar work experience or educational backgrounds as plaintiffs.

M&T closed the compliance office in Baltimore and laid off the investigators in October 2015 after the merger was approved, the complaint says.

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