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Taco Bell Settles Assistant Manager Misclassification Case for $2.5 Million in Alleged Unpaid Overtime


Many companies try to save money by classifying employees as exempt from overtime compensation, even if the employee does not qualify for that exemption under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). When determining qualifications for an employee to be considered exempt from overtime compensation, the FLSA took into consideration, not only the employee’s job title, but also the duties the employee performs. The FLSA does this to try to make sure that employers don’t get away with classifying employees as exempt from overtime to avoid paying overtime to those employees who fit the qualifications.

According to the FLSA, in order to be considered exempt from overtime, an employee must fulfill one of three positions: 1) administrative (she must provide administrative support directly to an executive); 2) executive (her main responsibilities must involve managing other employees who report directly to her): or 3) professional (her job requires a particular set of skills or training). Sometimes employers like to bend the rules a little on these qualifications. Managers, for example, are often put into the executive category, even if the majority of their duties are the same as those performed by hourly employees.

This was allegedly the case for employees of Taco Bell who had been labeled assistant general managers. Jacquelyn Ann Whittington filed a class action lawsuit against Taco Bell in 2010 on behalf of all other Taco Bell employees with the job title of assistant general manager. According to the lawsuit, Whittington had been working for Taco Bell since October 2008 and her duties, along with other assistant managers, allegedly involved the same responsibilities as lower-level employees. These duties included busing tables, cleaning, checking inventory, manning the cash registers, and cooking food.

The FLSA requires employers to keep accurate records, going back at least three years, of all of the time each employee spent working as well as their weekly earnings, shift assignment, and other relevant information. While Taco Bell did have these records, they allegedly did not include all shifts worked, nor did they accurately portray Whittington’s duties.

Taco Bell tried to force the case into arbitration twice before finally agreeing to settle the case. Many companies find arbitration to be advantageous because plaintiffs don’t have the benefit of class actions status in arbitration. Additionally, the arbitrating company is usually chosen and paid for by the company, which frequently results in a conflict of interest. Taco Bell’s most recent attempt at forcing the case to arbitration was denied by U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen M. Tafoya who said that Taco Bell had failed to provide sufficient evidence that Whittington had signed an arbitration agreement when she accepted her employment at Taco Bell.

Although Taco Bell continues to insist that all of their assistant managers are properly classified under the FLSA, they agreed to settle this lawsuit out of court for $2.5 million. This means that each of the hundreds of assistant general managers that opted into the class action lawsuit will receive about $5,000 on average. The amount that each individual receives will be determined by time sheets and records to determine how much Taco Bell owes them for unpaid overtime.

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 Chipotle, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Outback Steak House, Taco Bell, Burger King, Wendy’s and hotels for misclassifying 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 Schaumburg and Aurora. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.

Our Naperville and Rockford 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 misclassify 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 not been paid for the overtime hours that they worked. If you believe that you are owed overtime wages, contact one of our Chicago class action attorneys by phone at (312) 869-4095 or through our online form.