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Plaintiffs Asked to Join Chicagoland Grocery Retailer Class Action

— February 17, 2021

Jewel-Osco is accused of not properly compensating its employees for the titles they were given.

Jewel-Osco employees could be able to join a class-action lawsuit alleging the grocery chain denied overtime compensation to assistant store directors.  The original suit was filed in May in Chicago federal court and accuses Jewel-Osco, which is the most widespread grocery chain in Chicagoland, of “misclassifying assistant store directors as salaried employees exempt from receiving overtime pay under state and federal law,” according to court records.  It is just one of multiple suits that have been brought against retailers suggesting they attempt to reduce labor costs by giving employees managerial titles without modifying their work responsibilities.

Assistant store directors “spend the vast majority of their time performing the same duties as non-exempt employees, including helping customers, working the cash register, moving products, stocking shelves, setting and resetting displays, counting inventory, cleaning the store, and otherwise standing in as cashiers, stockers, or other hourly workers,” the suit alleges, adding, “they don’t perform managerial duties like hiring and firing and should be classified as hourly workers eligible to receive time-and-a-half pay when they work more than forty hours a week.”

Plaintiffs Asked to Join Chicagoland Grocery Retailer Class-action
Photo by Daria Volkova on Unsplash

Chicago resident Lisa Piazza, who worked as an assistant store director at four different Chicago Jewel-Osco stores since February 2019, originally submitted the filing, alleging she worked roughly fifty to sixty hours of work per week every week and wasn’t compensated for the additional hours she put in.  Piazza alleged that “comparable salaried employees with different titles” and although they “are classified as management, they nonetheless spend most of their working hours performing the same duties as employees who qualify for overtime pay, such as direct customer interaction, register duty, inventory, shelving and displays, and cleaning,” according to court records.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland denied Jewel-Osco’s motion to dismiss and, instead, granted the conditional certification of a class-action.  Piazza’s attorneys can now notify current and former Jewel-Osco employees about the lawsuit and give them a chance to join.  Jason Conway, a Philadelphia attorney who is representing Piazza, estimates there could be as many as 500 to 600 additional employees affected who could be listed as plaintiffs.  Eligible employees are those who worked as assistant store directors from May 28, 2017, through the date of the final judgment.

The suit “can have broader ramifications across Albertsons properties,” Conway said.  Jewel-Osco is owned by Albertsons, which also owns Safeway, Vons and other major chains.  He added, “Employers can exempt salaried employees from overtime laws if they earn more than $35,568 and they primarily perform office or nonmanual managerial work, plus exercise discretion or independent judgment in their jobs.  In retail, roles such as assistant store director raise questions because those employees can end up shouldering extra work after overtime-eligible hourly workers are sent home at the end of their shifts – a burden magnified early in the pandemic, when stores were especially busy and short-staffed.”

Conway’s law practice also has cases pending against four Kroger-owned grocery brands in other states.  “These cases rarely go to trial, instead resulting in settlements after they are granted conditional collective action certification and other plaintiffs join,” he said.” Companies typically have not reclassified the disputed positions, sometimes resulting in more lawsuits later.”

Piazza’s suit names as defendants Jewel Food Stores, New Albertsons, and American Drug Stores, which are both wholly owned subsidiaries of Albertsons.


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