Week Adjourned: 1.19.18 – Walmart, Wawa, Taco Bell

Top Class Action Lawsuits

Walmart on Trend? Walmart has started 2018 true to form. They’re being sued—by a whole lot of unhappy workers who have filed a wage and hour class action lawsuit alleging they were underpaid when they missed lunch breaks and were not provided with proper information on their pay stubs, has received certification. In fact, three classes of plaintiffs in the employment lawsuit have been certified.

The three classes range in size from about 52,000 to 76,000 workers. Plaintiffs in the first class, led by Roderick Magadia, allege they were not paid adequately for missing lunch breaks from December 2012 to the present. According to the complaint, California labor law states that if a worker is forced to miss their legally required lunch break, they should be paid back at a rate higher than the base rate.

The second class alleges California pay stub violations, specifically that their pay stubs included a lump sum only for their overtime payments, rather than an itemized breakdown of how the wage was calculated, as stipulated by California law. The class period is from December 2015 through the present.

The third class consists of former workers whose employment ended between December 2015 and the present. They allege their final pay stubs were not itemized, in violation of California law.

While Walmart argued vigorously against certification of all three classes, and claimed that some of the class members may be eligible for more than $50,000 in damages, the judge rejected the big box retailer’s argument, stating that “The individual damages in this wage and hour case, even if they ‘could be in the multiple thousands of dollars’ for some class members, as Wal-Mart asserts, are substantially lower and therefore weigh in favor of finding that a class action is superior to other methods of adjudicating the claims in the instant case.”

The case is Magadia v. Wal-Mart Associates Inc. et al, case number 17-cv-00062, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Wawa Workers not Happy… Employment certainly was a theme this week. Wawa is also facing a potential court date—having been hit with an unpaid wages and overtime class action lawsuit filed by the company’s assistant general managers. And it’s been granted certification. The plaintiffs allege the retailer misclassified them as overtime exempt, effectively denying them overtime pay. The ruling limits the claim to roughly one year before Wawa’s decision to reclassify its assistant general managers as nonexempt employees in December 2015.

US District Judge Peter Sheridan, in Trenton, NJ, ruled that the plaintiffs met the ”lenient burden” for conditional certification of their class action under the Fair Labor Standards Act. His ruling was based, in part, on evidence provided by four named plaintiffs who allege they routinely work 50 to 60 hours a week and spend nearly all their time on non-managerial duties such as making sandwiches and operating cash registers.

The conditional certification awarded by the judge will allow the plaintiffs to send court-approved notices to employees, who become parties to the collective action by filing opt-in notices with the court.

The plaintiffs seek to recover unpaid overtime on behalf of current and former employees at Wawa’s stores in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland before the company changed its exemption policy for overtime, in 2015. The notice period runs from January 11, 2015 to December 28, 2015.

Six assistant general managers have joined the existing six plaintiffs, opting into the action. Wawa states that the notice provision in the case will include 1,550 assistant general managers.

The plaintiffs are represented by Marc Hepworth of Hepworth, Gershbaum & Roth in New York and Union, and New Jersey solo practitioner Joseph Monaco III.

And here’s the Hat Trick!…It’s time to face those claims of unpaid overtime! A Taco Bell franchisee is facing an employment class action lawsuit representing some 520 past and present Taco Bell employees who work at various locations across Michigan.

The defendant, Brighton-based Sundance, owns more than 150 Taco Bell restaurants in several states. According to the complaint, the company illegally doctored employees hours between 2013 and now, in order to avoid paying overtime. Originally filed in 2016, by four employees, the wage theft lawsuit has since been updated to include more workers who opted into the lawsuit.

According to the complaint, “Sundance engages in a practice in which it ‘shifts’ hours that an employee works during one week over to the following week, so that an employee’s time records do not demonstrate that the employee worked over 40 hours in a given work week. Sundance maintains a white board in its office on which it keeps track of its employees’ ‘shifted hours’ from week to week.”

Further, the plaintiffs assert that in some cases, they “simply were not paid at all for their ‘shifted over’ hours” or were “instructed to clock out, and continue working after doing so, in order for each store to maintain its Sundance-imposed labor metrics.” The wage theft allegations also state that some employees with “manager” titles working at certain Sundance locations were expected to work until 3 a.m. closing. They would then sleep at the store for three hours in order to be present for their scheduled 6 a.m. opening shifts. The lawsuit alleges violations of Illinois labor law.

So folks – on that happy note – this year’s a wrap –See you at the bar!!

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