From Detroit Free Press:
By Laura Colvin
A Livingston County company used various policies to avoid paying employees for time worked, a federal lawsuit alleges.
A complaint filed in U.S District Court in Detroit claims Brighton-based Sundance Inc., which owns more than 170 Taco Bell locations in Michigan and five other states, willfully violated the Fair Labor Standards Act with regard to misclassification, overtime and wage theft.
“Numerous lawsuits citing similar violations of the FLSA have been filed against Taco Bell franchises throughout the country going back 15 years or more,” said attorney Megan Bonanni, co-counsel for four Michigan workers who brought the lawsuit, in a press release.
Jolene Flanagan and Travis Pietrykowski, of China, Mich., Michelle Wilkins of Shelby Twp. and Denise Wood of Casco worked at various metro Detroit Taco Bell locations are named in the suit and are seeking back pay and other damages. The lawsuit was filed in October.
Court documents state Sundance did not pay employees for all hours worked; misclassified employees as exempt – thus not entitled to overtime pay — and did not pay hourly employees overtime when weekly totals exceeded 40 hours.
Sundance Operations Manager Molly Trosko did not return a message left seeking comment Tuesday.
Scott C. Fanning, a Chicago-based attorney representing the company, was reportedly in court and not immediately available for comment Tuesday. However, in a court filing, Sundance denied any wrongdoing and stated the company does not believe any employees are entitled to recover any relief under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Among the allegations:
• Managerial employees were classified as exempt, but did not have managerial authority — such as hiring, firing or disciplining other employees — but often worked 60-80 hours per week, spending the majority of working hours performing the same duties as other crew members.
• Because of the exempt status and excessive hours, those with manager titles often received an effective hourly rate lower than a regular crew member.
• Some managers reportedly slept at the restaurant after it closed at 3 a.m., as they were required to be onsite when the business reopened at 6 a.m.
• Employees were at times required to clock out, but continue working.
“The plaintiffs reported that they and other hourly workers at these Taco Bell outlets were regularly instructed by managers to clock out and continue working,” said Jennifer MacManus, co-counsel for the workers. “Each restaurant has a labor budget and managers are under a lot of pressure to limit the number of hours paid, no matter how much time employees actually work.”
Read more from Detroit Free Press.