Panera Bread has been ordered to pay $4.6 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought by more than 900 assistant managers from 300 locations, which alleged the restaurant misclassified them as exempt employees and failed to pay them overtime wages, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
According to the lawsuit, in 2016, Panera issued a company-wide reclassification of assistant managers, where they were misclassified as “exempt” from overtime pay. However, the lawsuit claims that although these Panera employees were classified as overtime exempt, they performed many of the same duties as hourly associates who qualified for overtime. Their duties included food prep and cashier work. The lawsuit also alleged that Panera had a pattern of violating the FLSA by failing to record all of the time its employees worked.
The FLSA requires that employees be paid at a rate of one and a half times their regular hourly rate for all hours exceeding forty per work week, unless they are “exempt.” In order to be exempt from the overtime requirement, the duties of a given employee must be of high-level responsibility. For example, performing office or non-manual work related to the general business operations or management, having the ability to hire, fire, promote or change the status of other employees, and use personal discretion when performing tasks without reporting to anyone else. According to the lawsuit, Panera assistant managers did not meet these requirements.
Other restaurant chains have also been facing overtime lawsuits by their assistant managers. These include McDonald’s, IHOP, Denny’s and Ruby Tuesday. If you are an Assistant Manager working at a fast-casual restaurant and are not being paid overtime, please call Pechman Law Group at 212-583-9500 for a free consultation.