PITTSBURGH, PA — A judicial panel for Pennsylvania’s Superior Court recently issued an opinion siding with a group of current and former managers for Pittsburgh-based General Nutrition Centers Inc. (GNC) claiming that the company shorted workers on overtime pay. The plaintiffs brought their claim challenging their employer’s use of the fluctuating workweek allowed under federal law, claiming that state labor laws superseded the manner in which overtime pay must be calculated using the method.
The ruling was a partial victory for both the plaintiff and the defendants who asked the state’s highest court to rule on how companies in Pennsylvania must pay overtime wages for employees working under the fluctuating workweek method. Under the method, workers traditionally earn a flat salary for all their hours worked plus one-one half their average hourly wages for overtime hours.
The fluctuating workweek assumes all the workers’ hourly wages will be paid from that salary by taking the base salary and dividing by the total hours worked, leaving just the half-time to be paid for overtime wages. While a lower Pennsylvania District Court judge initially ruled that GNC’s practices were illegal and issued a $1.7 million verdict for the plaintiffs, that award was appealed.
The state superior court ruled that although GNC did not err in using the fluctuating workweek to calculate overtime pay, it did violate the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act when it came to actually paying the wages. The Superior Court judge determined the plaintiffs should have received one and a half times their average hourly rate of pay but were only paid halftime.
As a result, the case returns to Allegheny County Court for the District Court Judge to recalculate the plaintiffs’ award based on the ruling. Under state and federal laws, wage theft victims can recover two to three years of back wages with interest, damages equal to back pay, attorneys fees to cover the cost of litigation, and other awards the court may see fit to issue as compensation.
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Our office will also determine if it is in your best interest to file a lawsuit against your employer. Because strict time limitations apply for filing these types of claims, we advise you contact our experienced unpaid overtime wage attorneys at your earliest convenience and preserve your legal rights.