(800) 585-4658

Unpaid overtime attorney

Overtime Pay for Store Managers under the Updated Rules in 2024: A Common Workplace Discrimination and Labor Law Problem

Store managers and assistant store managers have a lot of work to do every day. Sometimes clocking in before the break of dawn, they may stock the shelves or the food prep area and participate in the process of cleaning up and having equipment repaired. When customers stream in, they are often on the front lines along with the new hires like cashiers, customer service workers, optical or pharmacy technicians, etc. As closing time approaches, and the lights go off one by one, the “manager” may be among the last to leave under corporate policies that the store cannot be left messy, insecure, or with customers hiding in the changing rooms. This is where an experienced unpaid overtime attorney can help!

When store managers and assistant managers work long hours on all these required duties, they may work overtime, or more than 40 hours per week and/or 8 hours per day, depending on circumstances. Still, the company or store owners may deny them overtime, claiming that because their job title contains “manager,” they must be exempt from overtime. Recent court decisions, however, put this assumption to the test.

For example, in one case the court stated that even if a job description is focused on supervising other workers and managing store or restaurant operations, a trial may still be required on the reality of a “manager’s” actual duties. The manager or assistant manager may be entitled to present evidence that they spent much of their time on customer service or dealing with store equipment or food preparation and delivery, they did not actually lead the enterprise or a real department or division of it, that they were subject to freedom from direct supervision by someone higher up, they did not have final say on hiring or firing other employees or make recommendations that carried sufficient “weight,” or they earned similar wages to entry-level employees like cashiers or food preparation staff like chefs.

A similar situation may occur with some titles in the financial industry that sound like they might bring executive powers or require professional training, but often do not: stockbroker, investment adviser, analyst, even portfolio manager conceivably. The question under recent guidance is whether the financial industry employee in reality is free to use his or her own “discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.”

The Role Of An Employment Lawyer In Cases of Misclassification Or Discrimination

Workers often feel helpless in the face of the large HR departments, supervisor confidence that a worker does not “qualify” for overtime pay, official-looking job descriptions and pay statements, etc. The role of the employment discrimination attorney is often to pierce through this protective armor of companies and investigate the true facts. For example, the attorney may be able to uncover company policies that reveal why managers, assistant managers, stockbrokers, or other employees have been misclassified as exempt from overtime when they do not actually fit into the executive, professional, or administrative categories on the ground. A company may often mandate standard and uniform corporate polices and productivity goals on how store managers, assistant store managers, or other employees should carry out their day-to-day work. Evidence that the duties of the job are shaped by lengthy or detailed corporate procedures and policies may persuade a federal or state court to overturn an employer’s classification of employees as exempt from overtime, despite arguments from employers that individual managers’ duties may differ across stores.

Deposition testimony can buttress or serve as a replacement for policy memos or guidelines from within company records. For example, in one case many AutoZone store managers were allowed to pursue their case for overtime pay further after they cited the testimony of AutoZone’s Director of Field Human Resources and a regional HR manager that “helping customers and selling products is the most important job for AutoZone’s employees,” including store managers, and that customer service policies within AutoZone reinforced this expectation. The AutoZone case also reveals how attorneys help elicit crucial testimony from the managers who are seeking overtime pay, such as testimony that district managers limit their leadership and discretionary responsibility, that non-managerial employees require little managing due to AutoZone policies, and that “managers” spend most of their time on customer service along with cleaning and stocking stores. 

The Biden administration is planning the largest expansion of overtime pay rights in decades. It has instructed federal agencies to start limiting the executive, administrative, and professional loopholes for overtime pay. The Department of Labor intends to finalize these limits in April 2024.  At that point, it will be even more critical for workers to consult with a lawyer concerning what corporate policies and interviews with other employees, supervisors, and owners can reveal about actual job duties as opposed to theoretical titles, salaries, and job descriptions. As the Department of Labor points out: “Job titles and job descriptions do not determine [overtime] exemption status, nor does merely paying an employee a salary.”  In particular, the Biden administration is planning to “restore the right to overtime pay for salaried white-collar employees who prior to the [Trump administration] were always considered nonexempt if they earned below” a certain amount “and ensure that fewer white-collar employees who perform significant amounts of nonexempt work and earn” below a certain amount get overtime. (Emphasis added)

For similar reasons, discrimination cases may involve undermining employers’ justifications and excuses with hard evidence.  It may be that a certain group of persons, such as Hispanics, women, or an intersectional group like Black women or younger Black women, is denied overtime that people doing very similar work are receiving, due to bad-faith misclassification of their work as managerial, discretionary, free from supervision, or requiring professional training. The employment discrimination attorney’s role may then be to show that the protected group was similarly situated to and qualified for the higher hourly rate that members of a different group were receiving due to overtime or promotions, that it was disproportionately denied access to this higher rate, and that the employer’s justifications or excuses for paying the group members less do not hold up in light of the realities of the job.

Banding Together To Win Overtime Pay

Cases like AutoZone, and others against Family Dollar, Big Lots, and Tyson Foods illustrate the importance of collective action in overtime cases.  In a federal collective action, managers or other employees need not go it alone in seeking overtime pay. Other managers can take on most of the work, responding to document and testimony obligations and so forth. Other employees tag along with the first employees to file the action, as long as the various employees in the collective action have similar job duties and responsibilities such as similar workday realities and needed proficiencies. They usually work for the same employer, or a group of affiliated employers such as franchisees and their franchisor, subcontractors and the main brand or company, or various companies under common ownership. Even when the different employees do not work at the same work location, a few employees may be able to represent a larger group that works at multiple locations that share some characteristics in terms of working conditions. As a result, the group of workers may possess legal claims or demands for compensation against the same employer group regarding overtime pay, working off the clock, misclassification as exempt, or retaliation. (The federal overtime laws ban anyone from retaliating against an employee or group of employees even when the employee who speaks out or seeks to lead a class of other employees turns out not to be entitled to overtime or covered by the overtime law.)

Under New York law, an employee may lead a class action in which the court ensures that a class action notice is delivered to other employees with common or typical overtime claims or demands for compensation. The same may be true for violations of minimum wage laws, weekly pay laws, and wage statement laws in New York State. 

Next Steps

As a reliable unpaid overtime attorney, Leeds Brown Law P.C. is experienced in employment class actions. In cases involving unpaid overtime and misclassification, the firm has obtained valuable settlements benefiting groups of employees. In a case involving the grocery chain Aldi, it worked with other law firms to obtain a judge’s approval of $9.8 million overtime settlement on behalf of store managers across the nation. 

If you have been misclassified as to overtime hours or pay, asked to work off the clock, or received wrongful deductions from your hours, you may benefit from a free consultation to make sure you are being fully and correctly compensated for the hours you work.