Lawsuit claims Stewart’s underpaid workers
SCHENECTADY Stewart's Shops violated federal Fair Labor Standards by failing to pay workers for time they spent working beyond their scheduled hours, according to a class-action lawsuit filed by a former employee in U.S. District Court last week.
The 15-page lawsuit filed by Holly Gregory, a resident of the Jefferson County village of West Carthage, alleges she regularly worked more than her scheduled hours when closing the convenience store. She claims she broached the issue with managers at both the store and district level, but was never paid for the extra time she worked.
“Plaintiff was not compensated for this extra work time because defendant does not use a time clock or time punch system — rather, employees are paid based upon the hours they are scheduled to work and are discouraged from making changes to the schedule to reflect time actually worked,” stated Ryan Finn, an attorney representing Gregory.
Gregory, who quit her job recently, also claims the Saratoga County-based corporation has a policy in place where workers are required to remain on post without pay during shift changes. This meant she often worked extra, unpaid time while other workers were coming onto their shifts.
“This policy, referred to by defendant as ‘Hand Off Don’t Run Off!!!’ results in a systematic and widespread reduction in employee compensation as employees are not paid for this shift-change overlap time,” the lawsuit states. “On average plaintiff worked an extra 15 minutes per day of uncompensated shift-change overlap time.”
Stewart’s also shorted its workers time to eat meals, as required by state law, the lawsuit claims. Though the company has a special state permit to allow for paid 20-minute meal breaks for its workers under certain circumstances, it did not provide them, Gregory alleges.
Stewart’s also didn’t provide workers with the proper number of uniforms or a laundry service to wash them, in accordance with law, the lawsuit states. Workers were required to wash their own uniforms, the lawsuit charges, which placed added financial burden on them.
Gregory is asking for $20 million in relief, according to court documents. The lawsuit asked for statutory penalties of $2,500 for each member of the class action, in addition to uniform maintenance pay ranging between $4.30 and $9 per week that was allegedly denied workers.
Stewart’s employs approximately 4,500 workers in 330 convenience stores in New York and Vermont, according to the lawsuit. Maria D’Amelia, a spokeswoman for Stewart’s Shops, declined to comment on the allegations because the company hasn’t been served with the lawsuit yet.
“We have a long-standing reputation for being fair to our employees and do care about paying them fairly for the hard work they do,” she said. “Our employees are called partners because they own one-third of the company.”
Finn said his client — a young college student who worked part-time at Stewart’s starting in August — isn’t an isolated case. Since he filed the lawsuit, he said, roughly 50 workers have contacted him with similar accounts, some of them veterans of more than a decade of service with the chain.
“I feel like this is a widespread problem,” he said.