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What you need to know for 12/13/2017

Price Chopper to pay $6.5M to settle OT lawsuit

Price Chopper to pay $6.5M to settle OT lawsuit

'The parties were able to reach a mutually acceptable resolution of this matter and Price Chopper denies any wrongdoing.'
Price Chopper to pay $6.5M to settle OT lawsuit
The Price Chopper corporate offices of the Golub Corporation at Nott Street and Maxon Road in Schenectady
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

The terms of the settlement reached earlier this year in a lawsuit brought against Golub Corp. are now known: $6.5 million to be paid to managers who claim they were unfairly denied overtime pay.

Preliminary approval was granted Monday by United States District Judge Michael G. Mastroianni in Massachusetts to an agreement reached by attorneys for the Schenectady-based supermarket company and its former employees.

Only five people are named as defendants, but it is a class action, and the class includes “all current and former department managers” employed as recently as Dec. 1, 2016, and as far back as July 30, 2012, in Connecticut; July 30, 2011, in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania; and July 30, 2008, in New York state.

The defendants in the case are The Golub Corporation, The Price Chopper, Inc., Price Chopper Operating Co. Of Massachusetts, Inc., Neil M. Golub, and Jerel Golub. The named plaintiffs are Shelly J. Davine, James E. Williams, Jacob E. Ogden, Beth A. Farrar and Philip Cardinale. 

The matter dates to 2014, when Davine sued her former employer because of its overtime policies. Law firms Cohen Kinne Valicenti & Cook and Outten & Golden represented her.

The North Adams, Massachusetts, woman charged that in an attempt to reduce labor costs, the company unlawfully classified her and other department managers as “team leaders” -- a position the company said was exempt from federal overtime protections. As a result, she worked 45 to 50 hours a week without overtime pay alongside other people doing the same tasks and receiving overtime pay when they worked more than 40 hours a week.

According to the lawsuit filing, Davine worked as a team leader at stores in North Adams, Lenox and Lee, Massachusetts from 1983 until June 2014. At each of the stores, she alleged, 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.

Golub Corp. spokesman Mona Golub said Thursday she could not comment beyond what she said in April, when the settlement was reached:

“The parties were able to reach a mutually acceptable resolution of this matter and Price Chopper denies any wrongdoing.”

However, a legal motion early on in the case provided a response to some of the allegations in the lawsuit, as Golub’s attorneys argued against the class-action status then being sought by the defendants. In a December 2014 filing running 20 pages and containing 54 footnotes, the company drew a picture of greatly varying duties and salaries for its managers, and said it was therefore impossible to lump them into a single class. It said:

  • Team leaders might have as few as three teammates to manage or as many as 240.
  • Team leaders are at all times responsible for the management and success of their departments, and responsible for training, coaching and counseling their teammates.
  • Salaries start at $56,000 a year for team leaders and 13.9 percent of them earn $100,000 or more.
  • 78.52 percent of team leaders are salaried employees and classified as exempt from overtime pay requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • 21.47 percent of team leaders are classified as non-exempt employees and paid an hourly wage, including overtime.
  • The company reviews whether a team leader should be exempt or non-exempt annually on a case-by-case basis.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs did not return a call seeking comment for this story.

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