Former assistant managers at Friendly’s are suing their previous employer J&B Restaurant Partners. J&B owns and operates a 102 Friendly’s restaurants in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
The class action lawsuit alleges that J&B had purposely and repeatedly violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by not compensating New York franchise assistant managers and assistant manager trainees adequately for overtime work. While assistant managers are exempt employees under the FLSA, assistant managers at Friendly’s held the title in name only. Exempt employees are not qualified for overtime. The class action claims that since the work consisted of the same tasks as non-exempt employees, assistant managers were mislabeled as exempt employees and were routinely not paid for overtime hours.
The class action complaint first challenges Friendly's training program for assistant managers. During an eight week assistant management trainee period, trainees performed tasks that required manual work. These tasks included cooking, stocking shelves, or cleaning equipment. Trainees had no executive or administrative authority until they “graduated” from the training program and were promoted to a management position. The lawsuit alleges that the trainees were assistant managers in name only during the training period, and were falsely classified as exempt employees. The class action lawsuit alleges that each trainee is due unpaid overtime compensation, at an average of 10 weekly overtime hours for the 8 weeks of their training program.
Once assistant mangers graduated from the training program, the lawsuit goes on to allege that outside of the training period, J & B also failed to compensate assistant managers for overtime hours. Assistant managers performed manual tasks such as greeting and seating customers, preparing ice cream desserts, cooking all items on the menu, running food to customers, bussing tables, unloading delivery trucks, and cleaning the restaurant. Overall, assistant managers worked an average of 50 hours per week. Similar to assistant manager trainees, assistant managers were classified as exempt employees. However, their actual job duties did not reflect their titles; therefore assistant managers should be fairly compensated for overtime hours.
Current Friendly employees may be afraid to assert their rights to fair pay out of fear of direct or indirect retaliation. Former employees may also fear that claims against their former employer may harm current or future employment. Outside of the named plaintiffs, the class action allows employees to maintain a degree of anonymity and their rights without fear of consequences. The lawsuit will determine if J&B: (1) applied a common policy for management trainees to work an average of 50 hours per week but failed to compensate them for over 40 hours worked; (2) misclassified management trainees as exempt from overtime pay; (3) applied a common policy to employee assistant managers for an average of 55 hours per week without overtime compensation; (4) misclassified assistant managers as exempt from overtime pay; (5) purposely set a policy to classify New York assistant managers as exempt salaried employees to avoid New York laws; (6) paid New York assistant managers for 40 weekly hours on an hourly basis rather than on a salary basis; (7) owes unpaid overtime wages at time and one-half for New York employees; and (8) is liable for damages, penalties and interest.