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Price Chopper Slapped With OT Class Action

Law360—Lisa Ryan

Supermarket chain The Price Chopper Inc. misclassifies its department managers as exempt from overtime wages in an attempt to reduce its labor costs, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and state law, according to a putative class action filed on Wednesday in Massachusetts federal court.

The suit alleges Price Chopper’s department team leaders and managers are expected to work alongside overtime-eligible employees, doing the same work for the same amount of hours, but they are being deprived of overtime wages when they work more than 40 hours in a workweek.

“Plaintiff brings this action on behalf of herself and a collective of similarly situated current and former department team leaders and/or department managers at Price Chopper … to remedy Price Chopper’s violations of the overtime provisions of the FLSA that have deprived plaintiff and similarly situated employees of their lawfully earned wages,” the complaint said.

Lead plaintiff Shelly J. Davine alleges the grocery chain and The Golub Corp. and various members of the Golub family — who own and operate the 135 grocery stores nationwide — have a companywide policy of withholding overtime wages from its department leadership staff. While working for the chain from 1983 to this June, Davine says she regularly worked more than 45 hours a week without receiving overtime wages.

She alleges that the department leadership positions should not have been classified as exempt from overtime wages because the role calls for leaders and managers to conduct the same primary duties as workers who receive overtime wages and because they do not have any hiring or firing power over the other employees.

The lead plaintiff also says the chain fails to properly record all of the hours that the leaders worked, including hours worked before and after their regularly scheduled shifts.

Davine’s claim for violations of the FLSA was filed on behalf of a collective group of department team leaders and managers, including those working in the bakery, deli, meat, seafood, grocery, front-end or produce departments, who didn’t receive overtime pay for hours worked more than 40 in a workweek and elect to join the action.

The suit also raises separate claims for violations of Massachusetts Wage Act and common law on behalf of a putative class of the workers. It says that although the actual number of class members is currently unknown, the lead plaintiff believes it to be more than 150 members and urged the judge to grant class certification.

“These Price Chopper employees are important members of their communities in cities and towns in the northeast and we’re just trying to get them the wages they have already earned and legally deserve,” Kevin M. Kinne of Cohen Kinne Valicenti & Cook LLP, an attorney for the lead plaintiff, told Law360 on Thursday.

The suit is seeking unpaid overtime wages, in addition to treble damages and fees.

Mona Golub, a spokesman for Price Chopper, said in a Wednesday statement that the company hasn’t been served with the complaint yet but that the company is familiar with the requirements of wage laws.

“We take our obligations to our employees seriously and take the necessary steps to ensure that we comply with the law,” Golub said in the statement.

The lead plaintiff is represented by Kevin M. Kinne and Benjamin K. Steffans of Cohen Kinne Valicenti & Cook LLP and Rachel Bien and Katrina Eiland of Outten & Golden LLP.

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The suit is Davine v. The Golub Corporation et al, case number 3:14-cv-30136, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.