The Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain misclassified its assistant managers as exempt from overtime under Pennsylvania and federal law, despite sharing many duties with nonexempt hourly employees, according to a proposed class action filed Tuesday in a Pennsylvania federal court.
Former Texas Roadhouse employee Brittanee Tupitza says in her complaint that service managers, kitchen managers and other assistant managers at the chain's 464 company-owned restaurants were classified as exempt from receiving overtime pay, but their actual daily work was the same as nonexempt workers who could earn overtime doing the same jobs.
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The lawsuit, brought on behalf of a proposed class of all assistant managers at Texas Roadhouse Management Corp. locations in Pennsylvania and nationwide since January 2017, says the alleged misclassification and failure to pay overtime violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act. The suit seeks a declaratory judgment that the practice was unlawful, an injunction blocking future misclassification and certification for the proposed class, along with the class' unpaid overtime wages, liquidated damages, interest and attorney fees.
Tupitza, a service manager at a Texas Roadhouse in Erie, Pennsylvania, from June 2016 to May 2017, said she was not paid overtime when she exceeded 40 hours of work in a week; sometimes she put in 50 to 70 hours per week.
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Assistant managers, the complaint says, could not exercise their own discretion in any "matters of importance" and had no say in hiring, firing, scheduling or disciplining other employees. They could not make any plans or decisions that affected the company's bottom line or business practices and could not deviate from the company's policies and practices without approval, the suit said.
The suit also accused Texas Roadhouse of failing to keep accurate records of assistant managers' hours. It said a class action would be superior to individual litigation because of the complexity and expense of piecing together the restaurants' time records and policies.
"Although the relative damages suffered by individual Pennsylvania ... class members are not de minimis, such damages are small compared to the expense and burden of individual prosecution of this litigation," the complaint says. "The individual plaintiffs lack the financial resources to conduct a thorough examination of defendant's timekeeping and compensation practices and to prosecute vigorously a lawsuit against defendant to recover such damages."
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Counsel for Tupitza and a representative for the restaurant chain did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
Tupitza is represented by Justin M. Swartz and Michael N. Litrownik of Outten & Golden LLP, Gregg I. Shavitz, Alan Quiles and Michael Palitz of Shavitz Law Group PA and Gary F. Lynch of Carlson Lynch LLP.