Product News and Recalls

Panera Faces Overtime Wage Lawsuit Brought By Former Store Managers

panera sued over wage practicesAnother retailer finds itself defending its classification of “management-level” employees.

Two former assistant managers for Panera Bread have joined forces to file a class-action lawsuit against the fast-casual food chain. Hailing from Washington, D.C. and Alabama, the plaintiffs allege that they were “unlawfully classified as exempt from overtime protections.” As such, even though each was regularly working over 40 hours per week, they were not being paid overtime as a result.

The two argue that even though their titles within the organization were that of assistant manager, the roles and expectations of the title were anything but management related. They would “predominantly perform non-managerial work related to customer service, cashiering, food preparation, and cleaning;” work that does not meet the standards and level of complication necessary to be classified as exempt.

The two accuse Panera of regularly violating the Fair Labor Standards Act and suggest that the practice is much more widespread than just their individual stores. Specific claims in the suit include “willfully failing to record all of the time that [Panera’s] employees…have worked,” and “willfully misclassifying plaintiffs and the collective members as exempt from the requirements of FLSA.” This leads to the conclusion that Panera is “willfully failing to timely pay its employees…overtime wages and all wages earned for hours that they worked in excess of forty per week.” They believe that over 100 additional Panera employees would be eligible to join their class-action lawsuit if they chose to do so.

Panera is far from the only retailer in hot water with its current and former employees over the way it uses the FLSA to classify (or mis-classify) management and assistant-management level employees to avoid paying overtime. Philadelphia-headquartered Urban Outfitters is defending itself against claims that follow the Panera lawsuit almost to the letter. Two former managers – also classified as exempt under the FLSA – argue that the home goods and clothing retailer classified their roles as exempt from FLSA protection even though their daily tasking focused primarily on non-skilled work including cleaning, folding clothes, and unboxing new merchandise.

Being promoted in your work is supposed to be a source of pride. A promotion is supposed to reinforce the fact that you are doing well and that the company has seen fit to put more responsibility in your hands. It seems, however, that all too often, a retail promotion to manager may just be a way for that company to avoid paying you for your contributions to its bottom line.