A common employer tactic is to assign work tasks to employees while they are “off the clock” – that is, to tell workers to perform their job duties either before or after their shifts. Of course, this amounts to nothing more than wage theft by requiring that unpaid work be done. One recent set of lawsuits held the home improvement chain Lowe’s liable for this practice by securing compensation for more than 2,500 hourly managers who were not being paid for their work. The Lore Law Firm takes a look at what happened.
How Lowe’s Got in Trouble
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibits employers from requiring their employees to perform unpaid “off-the-clock” work. This includes work duties both before a shift begins and after it ends. There are a number of tasks that an employer may expect its employees to do before officially clocking in for the day or after officially clocking out.
In the case of Lowe’s, plaintiffs – hourly managers at 1,700 Lowe’s stores across the country – argued that they were required to open and close their stores and conduct exterior perimeter sweeps while they were off the clock. These are job duties, and the time spent doing them should therefore be compensated. But in a set of class-action lawsuits filed against the big-box home improvement chain, the managers claimed they were denied wages, including overtime for which they must be paid time and a half. In addition to running afoul of the FLSA, Lowe’s violated various state wage and hour laws.
The Lawsuit and Settlement
Because there were numerous plaintiffs spread across the country, the lawsuit began as a class action. Originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina (where the headquarters of Lowe’s is located) in April 2019, another 19 class actions were later filed in other federal courts. The lawsuits were eventually consolidated in the Western District of North Carolina, although 184 managers decided to forego the class action and pursue their own claims separately.
Several law firms were involved in the litigation, which included extensive discovery in the form of interrogatories and depositions. Mediations and arbitration hearings were also part of the effort. Ultimately, the matter settled for $9.95 million, which included approximately $7,450,000 from the multidistrict litigation settlement and approximately $2,500,000 in arbitration awards. Lowe’s also agreed to change its timekeeping system and compensation policies, which helped managers secure additional compensation which they might otherwise have lost.
Wage Theft Is Real and Persistent
This case serves as another reminder of the pervasive nature of wage theft. There are many forms of it, including forcing workers to perform job duties during lunch breaks and, as here, obligating them to do unpaid work before and after their shifts. The problem is that some of these job duties are relatively short in duration. For instance, your employer may require you to sweep the storefront prior to clocking in. It may only take 5-10 minutes to do so. However, over time, those 5-10 minutes add up to significant amounts of money that are effectively stolen by your employer.
If you’re being told to work before or after your job shift and you’re not being paid for it, you deserve a free legal review of your situation. You can obtain that review by filling out The Lore Law Firm’s confidential client intake form. Let us look at your case today.