Food Distribution Employees Prevail in Ohio Wage Lawsuit

A federal judge in Ohio provisionally approved the certification of a group of food distribution employees who alleged that they were required to work off-the-clock and during breaks without compensation. The judge stated that the workers demonstrated the company’s policies were consistently enforced across the board.

According to the judge, the workers submitted more than 10 affidavits from employees at various Shearer’s Foods locations nationwide, all detailing similar situations. These affidavits collectively asserted that the company mandates employees to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and attend meetings prior to clocking in. Additionally, many affidavits mentioned receiving bonuses that were not considered in their overtime pay calculations, as per records.

The Judge certified a group consisting of both current and former hourly production and manufacturing employees who worked at least 40 hours per week and were subjected to obligatory pre-shift anti-contamination procedures, experienced shortened breaks, or received bonuses during any workweek within the past three years.

In June 2022, the workers initiated their lawsuit, claiming that three overarching policies implemented by Shearer’s resulted in them being deprived of overtime compensation. They asserted that they were obligated to wear personal protective equipment, wash their hands, and attend meetings before commencing their shifts.

Moreover, the workers were required to clock out for 20-minute breaks; however, they claimed that these breaks were frequently interrupted and should have been considered as hours worked. Furthermore, court records indicate that when employees received nondiscretionary bonuses, the additional compensation was not factored into the calculation of time-and-a-half overtime wages. In August 2022, they submitted a motion to certify the collective.

It’s imperative for employees to receive fair compensation for the entirety of their shifts, including time spent on mandatory pre-shift activities and interrupted breaks. Additionally, nondiscretionary bonuses should be factored into overtime wage calculations, per the FLSA, to ensure that employees are properly compensated for their hard work.

If you believe you’ve been affected by similar circumstances and wish to explore your legal options, we encourage you to reach out to an attorney at Fitapelli & Schaffer for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to advocating for the rights of workers and ensuring they receive the compensation they rightfully deserve.