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State gets back pay for laid-off Mercury Cos. workers

California labor regulators have settled a lawsuit with a bankrupt title insurance company, recovering $4.29 million in back wages for 633 employees who were laid off in 2008.

Denver-based Mercury Cos. abruptly closed the doors of affiliates operating in California and failed to pay workers wages, vested vacation benefits, commissions, expenses and notary fees, the state alleged.

"In this case, a company closed without providing the proper notification and without paying final wages as required by law and was found to owe over $4 million in back wages," state Labor Commissioner Angela Bradstreet said.

An additional $125,000 in employee 401(k) account contributions will be returned to workers in the near future, the state Department of Industrial Relations said.

Mercury's California subsidiaries included Financial Title Co. and Lenders Choice Title Co. The settlement covers a lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court and in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Denver.

A major issue in the claims brought by workers and the state against Mercury was the failure to provide a legally required 60-day notice of a "mass layoff" at facilities in Simi Valley near Los Angeles and Rocklin in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento, the Industrial Relations Department said.

-- Marc Lifsher

 
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