April 8, 2021 – Publix Agrees to Pay $7M to Settle Unpaid OT Claims
The judge overseeing the case detailed on this page has approved a more than $7 million settlement between Publix and certain department managers who were allegedly denied overtime wages.
Under the settlement, the terms of which can be found here, anyone who worked more than 40 hours as a meat, deli or bakery department manager paid by Publix as an overtime exempt employee between October 24, 2016 and April 1, 2019 and who filed a consent form that was not withdrawn by December 23, 2020 is eligible to receive a portion of the settlement amount.
Per court documents, 1,695 individuals have filed valid consent forms and will receive a minimum payment of $200, plus additional funds depending on how long they worked for Publix in a covered position.
In approving the settlement via a March 29, 2021 order, U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May found that the terms “reflect a fair, adequate, and reasonable compromise of a bona fide dispute, and demonstrate a good-faith intention by the Parties to fully and finally resolve those claims.”
According to court documents, Publix has 14 days from March 29, 2021 to deposit the settlement money into a qualified settlement fund, and claimants will be mailed checks within seven days of the deposit being made.
Publix Super Markets, Inc. faces a proposed collective action over its alleged misclassification of certain department managers as overtime-exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
The case concerns Publix deli, bakery and meat managers given the title of “Department Manager” who were allegedly classified as overtime-exempt before April 2019. The lawsuit claims that the employees often worked over 40 hours in a week yet were not provided with time-and-a-half overtime pay due to their improper managerial exemption under FLSA standards. Moreover, the defendant also failed to keep accurate records of all hours worked, the case alleges.
According to the complaint, Publix department managers were not given the type of executive responsibilities that typically accompany overtime-exempt jobs, including tasks that require the “exercise of meaningful judgment and discretion.” Department managers’ duties consisted primarily of manual tasks typically reserved for non-exempt employees, such as preparing and stocking food, servicing customers and cleaning, the lawsuit says.
According to the case, the duties of overtime-exempt workers typically include:
Hiring or firing employees;
Scheduling employee hours;
Supervising employees; and
Publix internally classified department managers across all stores as exempt in an attempt to avoid paying overtime, the case alleges. Although this was done company-wide, Publix, the lawsuit alleges, did not conduct a person-by-person analysis of department managers’ job duties before deciding how to classify employees. Moreover, Publix, according to the case, knew the employees should have rightly been classified as non-exempt yet “intentionally, willfully and repeatedly” violated the FLSA by misclassifying department managers as exempt.