Domino's Pizza Sued by New York Attorney General

 On May 24, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against Domino’s Pizza for wage theft and other wage violations against their delivery drivers. The lawsuit is also against three franchisees that own ten stores in the New York Area.

The complaint alleges that Domino’s was underpaying its delivery drivers below even minimum wage, and that they were not being properly paid overtime, either. According to the complaint, Domino’s knew about certain issues in their payroll system, PULSE, which underreported time and tips for the workers. However, these issues were not reported to the franchisees, which resulted in workers being underpaid.

Other allegations include requiring their drivers to pay out-of-pocket for their own job expenses, such as paying for their own gas or paying for bicycle maintenance, and improperly determining tip credit – the franchisee owners never checked if their drivers made enough in tips to justify a tip wage of 2.13/hour, which caused many of the drivers to work for below the federal minimum wage.

Does this situation sound familiar? If you’re experiencing similar actions from your employers, let us know by giving us a call at 615-250-2000! 

McDonald's Workers Allege Wage Theft

Last week, McDonald's workers in three states filed seven lawsuits alleging that the company is systematically stealing wages through illegal pay practices including failure to pay overtime, forced work off the clock, and erasing hours from their timecards.  The lawsuits, filed in California, Michigan and New York, also accuse McDonald’s of denying workers meal periods and rest breaks, and requiring employees to buy their own uniforms or pay to clean those uniforms -- practices that brought the workers pay below the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour.  Five of the seven lawsuits also name some of the company’s individual franchisees as defendants.  Two lawsuits filed in Michigan against McDonald’s and the Detroit-area franchise owners, allege that the restaurants told the worker to show up to work, but then ordered them to wait an hour or two without pay until enough customers arrived.  

These allegations are not unique to McDonald's -- these are the kinds of complaints our office often hears from restaurant employees and workers at car washes.  In fact, they are similar to the facts in several of our current and recent cases.  The McDonald's cases are remarkable for their potential size.  Just one of the cases was filed against the roughly 100 McDonald’s restaurants in California that are company-owned and operated.  That lawsuit seeks to be a class action representing 27,000 current and former McDonald’s employees.

If you want to learn more generally about these kinds of pay practices and their legality, visit our website here.

 

Celine Dion Sued for Failure to Pay Employees Properly

In a lawsuit filed in federal court last week, a handyman who was employed by Celine Dion and her husband at their home in Florida claims that he (and other employees) didn’t receive overtime pay to which he was entitled under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  Keith Sturtevant claims that Ms. Dion cheated him out of pay for several years by classifying him as a “manager” exempt from overtime pay.

Generally speaking, under the FLSA most employees must be paid at least the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour) for all the hours they work in each workweek, and overtime pay of one and a half times their regular rate of pay for each hour they work over 40 in that workweek.  The FLSA provides exemptions from these general rules for certain executive or management employees.  To qualify for the executive exemption, the employee must (1) be compensated on a salary basis of not less than $455 per week; (2) have a primary duty of managing the enterprise or a recognized department or subdivision of the enterprise; (3) customarily and regularly direct the work of at least two or more other full-time employees; and (4) have the authority to hire or fire other employees or have their opinion about such matters be given particular weight.

Even though he was paid a salary and had the purported title of “manager,” Mr. Sturtevant claims that he “did not have the power to hire or fire employees.”   Therefore, he claims that Ms. Dion “improperly and illegally designated him as an exempt employee ,” and that he should have been paid overtime for all the 8-20 hours he worked over 40 each week – including the “extensive tasks” he performed at Ms. Dion’s home each week.

While her heart might go on, let’s hope Ms. Dion’s failure to pay workers properly doesn’t.

Look here for more information about the overtime requirements of the FLSA and here to learn more about the exemptions from minimum wage and overtime.

Jury Awards $2 Million Verdict to Meat Processing Facility Employees

     Yesterday (9/26/2011), a jury awarded workers from multiple Tyson Foods, Inc. (“Tyson”) meat processing facilities a $2,892,378.70 verdict for uncompensated work performed before and after their shifts.  The Plaintiffs consisted of production and support employees from the Denison, IA and Storm Lake, IA facilities.  The trial took place in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa.

     Plaintiffs claimed that the donning and doffing of hard hats, work boots, hair nets, frocks, aprons, gloves, whites, and ear plugs before or after work constituted compensable “work” as defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  Tyson argued that these were merely “preliminary” and “postliminary” activities, for which it did not have to compensate employees. 

     The jury agreed with the Plaintiffs, and found that the preliminary and postliminary activities were compensable work under the FLSA, and, therefore, Tyson had failed to properly compensate these employees for that work.

UPS may be Forced to Deliver Overtime Pay to Drivers

            Ernesto Carrera and Christopher Stephenson, sued UPS Supply Chain Solutions, Inc. (“SCS”), a subsidiary and sister company of UPS, for minimum wage and overtime violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  SCS is self-described as a logistics company that manages other companies’ supply chains, and as part of that, operates hundreds of distribution centers throughout the U.S. and around the world.

             The drivers worked in Fort Lauderdale and Miami as delivery drivers for SCS.  Delivery assignments were made by SCS from a list of drivers in the area.  When the driver’s name reached the top of the list they were offered the job, which they could refuse or accept.  Drivers usually accepted the jobs, because if they declined, their name went to the bottom of the list. 

             SCS classified the workers as “independent contractors” under a non-negotiable piece rate method of payment where drivers were paid either a lump sum within a specified area or a flat rate per mile outside the area.  Drivers were not paid for the time they spent waiting for assignments despite claims that they were required to wait around the warehouse and were prevented from being able to pursue work at other locations during the waiting time. The drivers claimed they were paid below the minimum wage and were denied overtime pay.  SCS contends that drivers are independent contractors, and as such, are not owed minimum wage and overtime premiums.

             The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida allowed the case to proceed as a collective action, finding that a class of similarly situated drivers existed and that such class members may join the lawsuit. 

Restaurant Wait Staff Gets Stiffed

A Coral Gables restaurant agreed to pay $53,324 in back wages to 27 employees following a Department of Labor investigation. Cafe Vialetto in Coral Gables, FL agreed to pay its employees after federal investigators determined the restaurant did not pay wait staff for hours worked before and after their shifts, violating minimum wage laws. The DOL also found that the restaurant violated the overtime pay and record keeping requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Minimum wage and overtime pay violations are very common in the restaurant industry. Illegal pay practices are so common in the industry that many restaurant workers assume that the practices must be legal. Exploitation of restaurant workers is particularly troubling because their wages are among the nations lowest. Restaurant jobs meager wages make them some of the worst paying jobs in America.