Boston Market To Pay $3 Million To Settle Workers' Overtime Pay Suit

Restaurant managers don't usually clean ovens, mop floors or serve food. But it was having to perform such mundane tasks and not getting properly paid to do them that led several Boston Market Corp. employees to sue the chain for overtime pay.

The employees alleged in a 2010 lawsuit that the Golden, Colo.-based company failed to pay them overtime for working more than 40 hours a week by misclassifying them as "assistant managers" or other, similar titles that made them ineligible for overtime pay -- even though they spent the bulk of their time engaged in non-managerial duties.

A federal court this week agreed with the plaintiffs, who worked at stores in New York state and Connecticut, and granted them back pay in a class-action settlement, reports (subscription required).

In all, Boston Market agreed to pay $3 million to settle the claims, though the most any worker received was $12,000, while attorneys representing them were granted $1 million.

Disputes involving overtime and who is entitled to it have increased in recent years, as workers have tired of working extra hours for little or no extra pay.

The caseload of overtime cases brought by the U.S. Department of Labor jumped 36 percent to nearly 12,000 cases last year, compared to about 8,800 claims in 2010. Meanwhile, lawsuits brought in federal courts have climbed 15 percent.

The U.S. Supreme Court this week is hearing a case involving whether pharmaceutical companies must pay overtime wages to as many as 90,000 sales representatives. If it rules in favor of the employees, that would reverse 70 years of pay practices within the industry.

Earlier this year, Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG settled a similar, class-action lawsuit brought by its sales reps for $99 million. And last month, celebrity chef Mario Batali's restaurant enterprise paid $5.2 million to settle claims involving overtime pay and tips brought by employees.

According to MSNBC, it's unclear how many U.S. workers today are eligible for overtime pay, though an estimated 105 million were eligible in 2004, based on Labor Department estimates at the time.

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, so-called non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 40 each week.

Generally, employees who are paid a salary, rather than an hourly wage, are exempt from overtime rules, as are those who perform executive or professional duties.

Other factors that determine whether employees are eligible for overtime pay include whether the job performed involves supervising other employees and their duties, as well as a host of other management-type duties, including interviewing applicants, training employees, setting wages and workhours, planning and apportioning work and providing a safe workplace, among others.

How Overtime Pay Works

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