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Office Depot Must Face Class Action Overtime Claims

Class actions are a powerful and important tool for individuals with similar claims against a common defendant. Often, the defendant is a large, powerful corporation with a team of expensive attorneys at its disposal. Most employees and consumers do not have the resources to take on these corporations in court on their own, not to mention the fact that their individual claims are usually too small to justify the expenses associated with filing a lawsuit.

The class action solves all these problems. It allows individuals with similar complaints against a common defendant to combine their claims into one, large claim. It also provides them with the leverage they need to arm themselves with competent legal representation.

But plaintiffs looking to combine their claims need class certification from a court judge, and in order to get that, they need to prove the class meets certain requirements.

One of those requirements is that all the members of the class must have claims and situations that are similar enough to justify filing all their claims together. This is a common target for defendants to attack, often claiming that plaintiffs are not eligible for class certification because their situations are not exactly identical. This view was perpetuated in the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Wal-Mart a few years ago, but many judges are still certifying class actions all over the country and maintaining that their certifications are still in line with both the relevant class action law and the Supreme Court’s decision.

One recent example of this is Office Depot’s motion to dismiss a class action wage and hour lawsuit involving hundreds of current and former assistant store managers.

According to the complaint, Office Depot allegedly used a “fluctuating workweek” to avoid paying its assistant store managers overtime.

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 free to define their workweeks as they please, but moving them around to manipulate overtime is not allowed.

The lawsuit further alleges that, because the assistant store managers were paid on a salary basis, the fluctuating workweek meant their hourly rate varied, which subsequently resulted in various overtime rates for each employee.

The plaintiffs also alleged they were misclassified as exempt from overtime, claiming they did not qualify for the exemption.

Under the FLSA, some employees can be held exempt from the requirements of overtime compensation, but only if they meet certain conditions. Managers are one of the classes of employees that are not always entitled to overtime, but only if they spend the majority of their time at work managing other employees.

Office Depot argued that to determine that would require looking into the specifics of each assistant store manager’s situation on an individual basis, which would exempt them from class certification, but the judge disagreed.

Instead, U.S. District Judge William J. Martini said the plaintiffs had submitted sufficient evidence that their claims and situations were similar enough to justify combining them into one lawsuit. He therefore certified a national collective action for the FLSA claims and three state class actions for Colorado, Maryland, and Washington.The Chicago overtime lawyers at the Chicago Overtime Law Center are investigating unpaid overtime claims against large retail chains such as Petsmart, Officemax, Staples, Smart & Final, Apple, Walgreen’s, CVS, Urban Outfitters, GAP, Abercrombie & Fitch, Limited, Forever 21, Macy’s, Target, JC Penney’s, Lowes, Burlington Coat Factory, Marshalls, TJ Max, Victoria’s Secret, Nieman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Best Buy, Home Depot, Apple, Best Buy, Sears, K Mart, J.C Penney, Walmart, Costco, PetSmart, REI, Office Depot and other retail chains for misclassifying employees as managers, erasing or altering time sheets or time records, pressuring workers not to report or record overtime, failing to pay for time spent on security checks, and otherwise failing to pay workers for overtime and other wages. If you are the victim this practice call us at one of our offices near Berwyn and Melrose Park  at (312) 869-4095 or contact us online.