NEW YORK — Assistant store managers can continue their class action lawsuit against Barnes & Noble Inc. for unpaid overtime, said a New York federal judge recently. The assistant store managers (ASM) claim the company willfully misclassified their positions as exempt to avoid paying overtime wages. In the federal judge’s recent decision, which denied Barnes & Nobles’ request to dismiss the case, he determined there were still questions surrounding whether or not the employees were misclassified under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and that the matter might best be decided by a jury.
The lawsuit, which was filed in 2013 by three former Barnes & Noble ASMs, claims the bookselling giant classified the ASMs as exempt even though the company knew the ASM’s were nonexempt. Barnes & Noble claims the ASMs were exempt under either the executive or administrative exemption of the FLSA. As evidence, the company used its official description of ASM responsibilities, which include overseeing the entire store and staff and fulfilling the role of a manager. These responsibilities could potentially bring the ASMs under the executive exemption since they seem to be managerial, but descriptions alone are not enough for a final determination.
The former ASMs disagree with the descriptions, claiming their work was mostly routine tasks like those of booksellers, the store’s hourly employees. And while they had some management activities, they did not have the authority or discretion to make management decisions necessary for the exemption. But, more importantly, the ASMs noted that prior to a 2005 lawsuit under California wage law, Barnes & Noble classified all of its ASMs as exempt. After that lawsuit, which the company lost, ASMs in California were reclassified as nonexempt, but the company did not reclassify ASMs in other states until June 2010.
Statute of Limitations
The FLSA has a 2-year statute of limitations for violations, which means an employee cannot bring a lawsuit for the violation if it occurred more than 2 years prior to filing. Because the ASMs did not bring their lawsuit until January 2013, Barnes & Noble tried to argue that the ASMs could not bring their lawsuit at all due to the statute of limitations on their claim. However, there is an exception for willful violations, which allows a 3 year statute of limitations. The ASMs claim the time between the 2005 California reclassification and the nationwide classification in 2010 was willful, and thus the statute of limitations did not end until June 2013. The federal judge agreed that the issue was at the very least evidence the jury could consider.
If you are an Assistant Store Manager at Barnes & Noble or another retail chain and you believe your employer has misclassified your position or denied proper overtime pay, call our experienced team of overtime pay lawyers today at (855) 754-2795 or complete the Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review form and our knowledgeable legal team will evaluate your case. If we accept your case, we will represent you under our No Fee Promise. This means there are no legal fees or costs unless you receive a settlement. However, there are strict deadlines for filing or joining lawsuits so it is important to contact an attorney immediately.