Another OT Suit Settled in Retail Land
A couple of hundred years ago, I used to "manage" a small convenience store. By small, I mean about the size of the typical walk-in closet. It was a drive-in business and having any more than one person in the store at a time put heavy demands on the oxygen supply. Anyway, while many of the duties of a manager were included in my responsibilities, I was an hourly employee in charge of managing myself.
Occasionally, I would work past my assigned hours because it took longer to reconcile the day’s receipts or I needed to update orders of a product, etc. I rarely got paid for those hours, especially during the summer months, when they pushed me past 40 hours a week into time-and-a-half territory.
Back then I never made a big deal of it because I was happy to have a job where an adult left an 18-year-old on his own to run things. The owner also took care of me in other ways, such as free Coke and chips when I was on my shift. One time when my father was rushed to the hospital for a medical emergency, he told me to close the store and that he’d find someone to come in and cover for me. He didn’t and the store was closed for the entire shift. The next week I found that my paycheck was higher than expected. He had paid me as though I worked the entire shift. When I mentioned he had paid me too much, his response was along the lines of, "Don’t worry about it. You deserve it. I’m glad your dad is okay." That was it. He seemed uncomfortable accepting my thanks.
So, the reason for this walk down nostalgia lane is not to relive another childhood memory, but to express regret that so many retail employees today, both hourly and salaried, feel as though they are being pushed to work beyond the terms of their employment with companies with little to no recognition and compensation in return.
I’m not familiar enough with the merits of the lawsuit brought against Rite Aid by some 6,000 current and former assistant store managers and co-managers for unpaid overtime that the drugstore chain settled this week to comment on that situation. But I can say that when I saw the headline, my first thought was how common these settlements have become in recent years as retailers wind up addressing something in court that, to my mind, should never have become a legal issue in the first place.
A common retort in cases such as this is to blame it on the "trial lawyers," but it’s clear based on the number and size of settlements in past years that the legal arguments have merit. In all these cases, companies announcing settlements come out and assert how much they value their workers. You can pretty much count on them doing so again after the next suit and settlement.
Discussion Questions: What is behind so many cases where retail employees feel they are not being compensated for the hours they work? What is the fix to this issue?