Anthony Lazzaro is one of the few lawyers in Ohio that practices wage and hour law on behalf of the plaintiff. He knew since college he wanted to practice law.
“I had the skill sets … and I was a good negotiator and advocate for people,” said Lazzaro, who attended Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.
While in law school, he worked for Frantz Ward LLP in Cleveland as a summer associate. He stayed after graduation and worked in the labor and employment department representing companies.
Two years later, after learning his way around the Fair Labor Standards Act, he started his firm.
“I had become knowledgeable about wage law and realized that this is what I wanted to do. I switched sides. Instead of representing the company, I represented the plaintiff – the employees in wage and hour cases,” said Lazzaro.
Lazzaro employs five attorneys and two paralegals, and with four practicing wage and hour law exclusively, he said.
“We represent employees in a very narrow area of the law, he said. “We are at the forefront of wage and hour litigation in Ohio. We started filing these cases 12 years ago – a time when no one was really filing them.”
Even now, few Ohio attorneys specialize in wage and hour law on behalf of employees, Lazzaro said.
“In this day and age, what we do is very important, as the Fair Labor Standards Act is 80 years old. This law is more relevant today than it ever was,” he said. “We are living in a time when employees’ rights are continuously under attack … union representation is on the decline.”
Clients seek Lazzaro to file collective actions, which are similar to class actions.
“In a class action, everyone involved is automatically part of the case,” he said. “With a collective action, one must opt in and be certified. We have closed around $45 million for employees who were owed overtime pay.”
Lazzaro said his most noteworthy case is Laskoski, et al. v. Inkstop, a collective action for more than 600 former employees of a company that abruptly closed before paying its workers several weeks of pay.
“It was a bad situation because the employees had no notice,” he said. “They showed up to work one day and found a note on the door … then the company filed for bankruptcy.”
The case settled for more than $600,000 and the company’s owners and board of directors paid the settlement out of their pockets, Lazzaro said.
While passionate about his clients’ rights, Lazzaro does more than litigate. He makes coffee, something he has been doing longer than he has been practicing law.
“For the last 20 years, I’ve been into coffee,” he said. “My friends and I are starting a high-end coffee roasting business.”
Jill McCullough is a freelance writer.