Massachusetts federal court rules that supermarket department managers may pursue unpaid overtime claims against Hannaford Bros. on a class action basis.
On February 3, 2023, the United States District Court for Massachusetts, the Honorable William G. Young presiding, granted class certification in a case brought by Stephen Churchill of Fair Work P.C. and Benjamin Knox Steffans of Steffans Legal PLLC against supermarket giant Hannaford Bros.
In that case, the plaintiff claims that Hannaford misclassified its department managers in Massachusetts as exempt from overtime. The plaintiff claims that, because of that practice, Hannaford has failed to pay its department managers all the premium wages when they worked overtime, Sundays, or certain specific holidays.
Ruling in favor of the plaintiff, the District Court certified the following class:
All persons who work or have worked between January 12, 2018 and the present for Hannaford in Massachusetts as fresh department managers — including all (i) Bakery Sales Managers, (ii) Deli Sales Managers, (iii) Deli/Bakery Sales Managers, (iv) Produce Sales Managers, (v) Meat Market Managers, (vi) Meat Market/Seafood Sales Managers, and (vii) Deli/Seafood Managers — who did not receive overtime premium pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek, did not receive a premium for hours worked on Sunday, or did not receive a premium for hours worked on Protected Holidays.
In its decision granting class certification, the Court held the the plaintiff — a former bakery department manager who worked for Hannaford for 13 years — had shown that she and the other department managers in Massachusetts were similarly situated with respect to their claims for unpaid premium wages. The Court found that the case presented common issues of law and fact, and that these common issues predominated over issues affecting only individual department managers.
The Court explained that class treatment was appropriate because:
All class members have purportedly suffered an identical injury and their grievances are based on the same contention: they have been misclassified as exempt workers. And whether such misclassification has indeed taken place turns on the same factual and legal inquiry: whether their “primary duty” is the performance of exempt work.
The Court also found that:
Hannaford’s corporate policies and procedures — including training protocols, “standard practice” materials, labor standards, scheduling systems, standardized pay ranges, and Kronos data — constitute sufficient common evidence to allow for class-wide adjudication. These resources will provide common answers about all the essential factors underpinning the “primary duty” inquiry, including (1) the relative importance of fresh department managers’ exempt duties as compared with other types of duties, (2) the amount of time fresh department managers spend performing exempt work, (3) fresh department managers’ relative freedom from direct supervision, (4) and the relationship between the salary of fresh department managers and the wages paid to hourly employees. Moreover, the evidence offered by Hannaford has not persuaded this Court that the differences in job responsibilities between fresh department managers are sufficient to discount the probatory significance of the common evidence submitted by [the plaintiff] or otherwise prevent class-wide adjudication.
The case is Judith Prinzo, et al. v. Hannaford Bros. Co., LLC, Case No. 1:21-cv-11901. You can read a copy of the Court’s class certification order here.