PITTSFIELD -- A Pittsfield law firm has filed a federal lawsuit in Massachusetts on behalf of a North Adams woman that claims the Price Chopper supermarket chain violated federal and state wage laws by denying its department heads overtime pay after they had completed 40-hour work weeks.
The law firm of Cohen, Kinne, Valicenti & Cook filed the complaint against the Schenectady, N.Y.-based chain this week on behalf of Shelly J. Davine of North Adams, who was employed as a department team leader/department manager at Price Chopper's markets in North Adams, Lee and Lenox from 1983 through June 2014.
Price Chopper, which is owned by the Golub Corp., owns and operates 134 supermarkets in six northeastern states, including 15 in Massachusetts. The chain's Berkshire County outlets are located in Great Barrington, Lee, Lenox, North Adams and Pittsfield.
The complaint alleges that in her position as a department head Davine regularly worked more than 45 hours a week, and often at least 50 hours a week, without receiving overtime pay for any of the hours that she worked over 40.
As a department head, Davine was a salaried employee, while the colleagues in her department were paid on an hourly basis, said Attorney Kevin M. Kinne, of Pittsfield. But the firm believes Price Chopper's actions violated overtime protections granted by both the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Massachusetts Wage Act, because the salaried employees and hourly employees were performing the same duties.
In order for salaried employees to be exempt from receiving overtime pay, they have to perform different tasks then colleagues who are being paid by the hour, according to Kinne.
"If you're doing the same job as an hourly employee and that's your primary duty than you don't meet the exemption," Kinne said.
The complaint also asks the court to grant class-action status to all team leaders/department managers throughout the Price Chopper chain who were employed in positions similar to Davine's. The number of eligible employees in those positions is believed to be 150, according to the complaint.
The court has yet to rule on that request, Kinne said.
"Right now, it's early in the case; we just filed it," he said. "We're still months away from that being issued."
In a statement, Price Chopper spokeswoman Mona Golub said the chain has yet to be served with the complaint, so it has not had an opportunity to review the allegations.
"With regard to compliance with wage and hour laws, we are very familiar with their requirements and the analysis that must be done to make sure that employees are paid accordingly," Golub stated. "We take our obligations to our employees seriously and take the necessary steps to ensure that we comply with the law."
Outten & Golden, LLP, a national employment law firm with offices in Chicago, New York City and San Francisco, is listed as co-defense council on the complaint. Kinne said the complaint was filed in Massachusetts because Davine is a state resident. The case has been assigned to the federal court in Springfield.
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