A jury in United States District Court for the District of New Jersey returned a verdict against Staples on February 20, 2009 and in favor of over 300 Assistant Store Managers who had sued for unpaid overtime compensation. The suit, entitled Ronald Stillman v. Staples, Inc., was initially brought in 2007 and claimed that Mr. Stillman and all other Store Managers at Staples stores in New Jersey had been illegally classified as exempt from overtime. The case went to trial in February and a jury returned a verdict in the amount of $2.5 million. The class was successfully represented by the Locks Law Firm of Cherry Hill New Jersey as well as Berger & Gottlieb of New York, NY.
Cases like this are becoming more commonplace. I wrote about a $35 million verdict against Family Dollar and in favor of their Store Managers in a previous blog.
While these cases are federal in nature, they affect Connecticut workers because the federal FLSA applies here in Connecticut. Of course, we also have our own overtime law in Connecticut. The FLSA, however, has a provision which allows collective actions (like a class action but easier to bring).
The theme of these cases is the same. Retail companies are consistently classifying their Store Managers and Assistant Store Managers as exempt Executives, even though they do not qualify for this status because they are not given enough true Executive authority to qualify for this status. Many retail managers spend most of their time unpacking deliveries and stocking shelves. What little supervision they perform is done under the close and watchful eye of their District Managers who micromanage everything they do.
Retail employers should be getting the message. You can’t call someone a manager if they are nothing more the glorified stock clerks and/or sales associates. I am sure there will be more of these cases to come.