TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Three former Publix employees have filed a collective action suit against the supermarket chain, alleging that it made them work off-the-clock without paying them overtime.
According to the suit, the plaintiffs, who are represented by Shavitz Law Group, P.A. and Morgan & Morgan, were assistant department managers paid hourly for working at Publix stores in Spring Hill, Fla., Ohio, Tennessee and the greater Atlanta area.
The suit, filed Thursday in the Middle District of Florida, alleges Publix required them to work before their shifts, during unpaid lunch breaks and after they clocked out. It said the company failed to record or compensate them for all hours worked, violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
They said the off-the-clock work included cleaning, stocking groceries and helping customers. The plaintiffs also claimed they were “routinely interrupted” during lunch breaks to handle work matters.
“While Defendant required Assistant Department Managers to work overtime hours, it did not pay them for all hours worked including time spent working inside Publix stores performing pre- and post-shift work off-the-clock required by Publix or their supervisors; time spent working during unpaid meal breaks; and time spent outside of Publix stores communicating with supervisors and co-workers, and other directives, off-the-clock,” the lawsuit claims.
The suit seeks damages for unpaid overtime wages, liquidated damages, attorneys’ fees and more.
With an FLSA collective action, a worker can sue on behalf of themselves and other “similarly situated” employees. The suit calls the company’s conduct “widespread, repeated and consistent,” and notes that other “similarly situated” employees may take action.
The Lakeland-based grocer has more than 1,300 supermarkets in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia.
“As an associate-owned company, we are proud to provide our associates with a comprehensive benefits package – including company ownership – in addition to paying our associates in accordance with the law. We take these claims seriously and will respond appropriately,” Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous said in a statement emailed to WFLA.
“Every year, according to the Economic Policy Institute, American workers lose as much as $50 billion per year to wage theft,” Morgan & Morgan attorney Ryan Morgan and Shavitz Law Group attorney Gregg Shavitz said in a joint statement. “Our clients have experienced something many workers face … We will work to uncover all the evidence about the extent of these alleged harmful practices in order to hold Publix accountable and recover every possible dollar of these workers’ rightfully earned money.”