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Burger King Charged With Allegedly Misclassifying Workers to Avoid Paying Overtime

Employers with high turnover rates tend to lose a lot of money. They have to spend time and money training new employees, and the more new employees they have, the more time and money they have to spend on training. It’s common for employers to look for ways around this, and it’s an unfortunate fact that the workers often have to pay the price.

According to a new wage and hour lawsuit against Burger King, the fast food chain allegedly misclassified its operations coaches and trainees as exempt from overtime. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), all hourly employees are entitled to one and one half their normal hourly wages for overtime. The FLSA defines overtime as all time spent working after eight hours a day or forty hours a week. The Act does allow for some employees to be considered exempt from this rule, but it is very specific about the types of employees that can qualify for this exemption.

The first category for overtime exemption is managers, and it is probably the most misused. Many employers, whether through ignorance or intentional violation of the law, give employees managerial titles and then classify them as exempt from overtime. However, the FLSA is much more specific about the types of responsibilities an employee has (rather than job title) in order to qualify for overtime exemption.

Under the FLSA, an employee can qualify for overtime exemption under the executive (managerial) category only if the employee spends the majority of her time managing other employees and has a direct say in the discipline, hiring, and firing of those employees. A manager who trains new employees, but spends the majority of her time performing the same tasks as hourly nonexempt workers, does not qualify for the overtime exemption.

According to the  allegations in the recent wage and hour lawsuit, Burger King’s coaches and trainees allegedly spend the majority of their time performing “menial laborious tasks, including, operating cash registers, cleaning bathrooms, greeting and serving customers, and cooking food.” The lawsuit alleges Burger King intentionally misclassified these employees so it would not have to pay employees overtime while waiting for positions to open up. According to the lawsuit, Burger King allegedly took advantage of a situation in which there were always far more people waiting for a job than there were positions available.

The class action lawsuit alleges the decision to misclassify employees “was made at the highest corporate level” because it saved Burger King millions of dollars in labor costs. The lawsuit further alleges that the cost of years of litigation (even if Burger King lost) would be less expensive than properly paying its employees.

The wage and hour lawsuit was filed by Ronald R., who alleges he spent five months in the trainee program, where he regularly worked 60­hour weeks. Even after he was promoted to a sales, profit, and operations coach, Ronald claims he never supervised enough employees to qualify for the overtime exemption.

The lawsuit was filed in Florida and seeks to represent a nationwide class of employees who have worked for Burger King as trainees in the leadership program and/or have worked as a sales, profit and training coach at any time in the past three years. The proposed class could potentially consist of as many as 1,500 employees.  Burger King denies all these claims and contends it did nothing wrong.

The Chicago class action lawyers at the Chicago Overtime Law Center are investigating unpaid overtime claims by waiters and bus boys and other restaurant and hotel workers against national restaurant chains including Hilton, W, Marriott, Sheraton, Holiday Inn, Best Western, Chipotle, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Outback Steak House, Taco Bell, Burger King, Wendy’s and hotels for mis-classifying employees as managers or assistant managers, forcing employees to work off the clock at business, failing to share all tips, erasing or altering time sheets or time records, pressuring workers not to report or record overtime, and otherwise failing to pay workers for overtime and other wages. If you are the victim these wage theft practices call us at (312) 869-4095 or contact us online.

The Chicago class action attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have three decades of experience fighting to help employees who are victims of wage, overtime and tip theft by their employers. We have a team of Chicago unpaid overtime lawyers who concentrate on prosecuting state and nationwide class action lawsuits. Our attorneys work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices and pursue claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Mt. Prospect and Rolling Meadows. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.

Our Schamburg and Joliet overtime lawyers are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers mis-classify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages.

The Chicago Overtime Law Center is based in Chicago, and represents clients throughout the country who have unpaid overtime and other employment right claims.