It can be hard for workers to try to file a grievance against their employer for a number of reasons. Aside from the fear of retaliation from their employer, workers don’t usually have the same leverage their employers do. It gets worse if the worker’s claim is too small to justify the costs of filing a lawsuit, even if the alleged damages are significant for the employee.
Employees who share similar grievances with their coworkers have the option to come together and file all their grievances together in one lawsuit. They can do this as either a class action (in which all eligible class members are automatically included in the class unless they opt out) or a collective action (in which eligible class members have to opt in if they want to join the collective action).
Courts will sometimes conditionally certify a collective action. This allows eligible members to opt in to the collective action so the court has a chance to see if the cases of the members are truly similar enough to justify proceeding with the lawsuit as a collective action. In order to determine whether to conditionally certify a collective action, a judge can look at the claims of the lead plaintiffs and the similarity of their claims.
In a recent collective action lawsuit against PNC Financial Services Group Inc. and PNC Bank N.A., the judge conditionally certified the collective action based on the claims of the two lead plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit.
Dominique Natasha B. and Samar H., both former employees of PNC, filed the lawsuit in Chicago in 2015. Natasha and Samar worked as assistant bank managers and allege they were regularly required to work more than forty hours a week without overtime pay. They allege PNC misclassified assistant bank managers as salaried employees who were not eligible for overtime compensation.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines overtime as any time spent working after eight hours a day or forty hours a week. Employers are required to pay all their hourly, nonexempt workers one and one-half times their normal hourly rate for all overtime worked. The FLSA does provide exceptions to the overtime requirements, but it is very specific about the types of responsibilities an employee must have in order to qualify for the overtime exemption.
Managers (or “executives”) are one class of employee that can qualify for the overtime exemption, but only if they spend the majority of their time at work managing other employees and have significant say in the hiring and firing of those employees.
Natasha and Samar allege the work they did on a day-to-day basis as assistant bank managers for PNC did not qualify them for the overtime exemption. They allege their duties consisted mostly of greeting customers, working the teller line, and answering phones, all work that can be done by hourly, nonexempt employees.
In addition to FLSA claims, the employment collective action lawsuit is also seeking compensation under the Illinois Minimum Wage Act, alleging the salaries they earned were not enough to pay them the Illinois minimum wage when all their overtime hours are taken into account.
In order to support their claim for a collective action, Natasha and Samar used job postings from 23 different PNC locations, as well as testimony from assistant bank managers working for PNC in three different states.
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 Barrington and Wheaton. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.
Our Oak Lawn and Palatine 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.