Three Ecolab Inc. employees on Tuesday launched a collective action in New York federal court accusing the water, hygiene and energy services company of systematically denying its maintenance workers overtime pay by misclassifying them as exempt from federal wage laws.
Ecolab has had a nationwide policy that deprives its route managers, who perform maintenance and repair services on commercial dish-washing equipment, overtime premiums for hours they worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek, the suit says. The lawsuit seeks certification of a nationwide class for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act as well as classes for route managers who worked in New York and New Jersey.
“We hope this lawsuit will encourage Ecolab to change its practices and pay its workers the wages they deserve,” said plaintiffs attorney Justin M. Swartz of Outten & Golden LLP.
Ecolab employs approximately 27,500 workers and provides a variety of services for customers across a spectrum of industries. The company generated more than $6 billion in revenues in 2011 and its customers include hotels, restaurants, car washes, grocery stores, and commercial and industrial laundries, the suit says.
The Minnesota-based company sought to limit its expenses by wrongly classifying them as FLSA exempt according to the suit. None of the route managers' primary duties fell with an exemption to federal or state exemptions, it says.
The suit seeks to certify a nationwide collective class under the FLSA of Ecolab employees who worked as route managers, route sales managers, and service and sales route managers three years prior to the filing of the complaint.
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The lawsuit seeks all unpaid wages due and additional liquidated damages under the FLSA. The complaint also seeks additional damages for violations of New York labor laws for employees who worked in the state during the relevant period.
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The case is Anthony Charlot et al. v. Ecolab Inc., case number 12-cv-04543, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.