A class-action lawsuit filed against Price Chopper Supermarkets on Wednesday accuses the Schenectady-based grocery chain of intentionally misclassifying its workers to get out of paying them overtime.
The suit was filed in federal court in Massachusetts and is being handled by law firms Cohen Kinne Valicenti & Cook and Outten & Golden.
The lawsuit alleges Price Chopper, in an attempt to reduce labor costs, unlawfully classifies its department managers as “team leaders” — a position the company exempts from overtime protections. According to plaintiff Shelly J. Davine, she and other team leaders were paid the same hourly wage rate each week but were regularly required to work more than 45 hours a week — and often 50 hours a week — alongside overtime-eligible employees who did the same work.
Price Chopper spokeswoman Mona Golub did not respond to specific questions about the suit Wednesday, but issued a statement saying the company hadn’t yet been served with the complaint and thus had not had an opportunity to review the allegations.
“With regard to compliance with wage and hour laws, we are very familiar with their requirements and the analysis that must be done to make sure that employees are paid accordingly,” she said. “We take our obligations to our employees seriously and take the necessary steps to ensure that we comply with the law.”
The Golub Corp.-owned chain operates 134 stores across the Northeast and employs about 22,000. In the last two years, it has cut 160 administrative positions from its Schenectady headquarters in an attempt to stay lean in an intensifying grocery landscape.
Plaintiff Davine lives in North Adams, Massachusetts, and worked as a team leader at Price Chopper stores in North Adams, Lenox and Lee from 1983 until June. The suit alleges that at each of the stores, she was subject to the same overtime exemptions, along with other team leaders in the bakery, deli, meat, seafood, grocery, front-end and produce departments. It also claims Price Chopper “willfully failed” to record all of the time employees worked.
Attorney Rachel Bien, of Outten & Golden, said they are calling on other team leaders to come forward and opt into the class-action suit.
“There are several hundred people who would be affected by the lawsuit because they are in the same job title and have been classified in the same way,” Bien said. “It’s really hard to estimate right now, but I think we’re talking about unpaid wages in the seven figures.”
The suit specifically alleges violations of overtime provisions under the Fair Labor Standards Act and violations of overtime and payment-of-wages provisions under the Massachusetts Wage Act. The federal violations allow employees from Price Chopper stores outside Massachusetts to join the class-action collective, Bien said. Because of a three-year statute of limitations, though, they are seeking team leaders who were employed after July 30, 2011, to join the collective.
Named in the suit are: The Golub Corp.; Price Chopper Inc.; Price Chopper Operation Co. of Massachusetts Inc.; Executive Chairman of the Board Neil Golub; President and CEO Jerry Golub; CFO John J. Endres Jr.; and Vice President of Legal Services Christine Daniels.
The plaintiff is demanding a trial by jury.