SEATTLE (Nov. 11, 2013) — A Seattle law firm has filed a class-action lawsuit against Les Schwab Tire Centers Inc., alleging the tire retailing giant routinely forces employees to work overtime without pay by designating them as assistant managers.
"The trick of trying to apply a managerial-sounding title to a worker in an attempt to avoid overtime pay is just about as old as the wheel itself," said Steve Berman, managing partner of the Seattle firm of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro L.L.P., in a press release. Mr. Berman and his firm filed the class action Nov. 6 with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.
According to the lawsuit, Bend, Ore.-based Les Schwab intentionally misclassified workers as assistant managers, forcing them to work 12-hour days and six-day weeks without overtime pay.
Washington State's wage and hour laws require overtime pay for any worker who works more than 40 hours in a calendar week. It exempts bona fide executives, administrators and professionals, but the class action alleges that the duties Les Schwab gives its assistant managers do not adhere to the rules for state exemptions to wage and hour laws.
According to the lawsuit, assistant managers at Les Schwab are regularly assigned menial tasks that usually go to hourly workers, such as cleaning up the backroom or stockroom, changing light bulbs and sweeping the parking lot.
On Jan. 1, 2013, the lawsuit states, Les Schwab suspended its policy of exempting assistant managers from overtime pay. It said what Washington assistant managers for the dealership seek is the overtime pay they allegedly accrued before the company changed its policy.
Les Schwab follows the same pattern throughout all its 600-plus stores, the lawsuit alleges.
Mr. Berman and his associates are asking all Les Schwab employees who think the company misclassified them to contact the law firm.
In February 2013, a jury in the Multnomah County, Ore., Circuit Court found that Les Schwab forced more than 200 assistant store managers in Oregon to work overtime without pay in contravention of state wage laws.
Dale Thompson, chief marketing officer for Les Schwab Tire Centers, told Tire Business via email that, for more than 60 years, the dealership "has taken pride in performance, value and honesty. Our assistant managers play a vital role in managing our stores and providing world-class customer service.
"Les Schwab Tire Centers firmly believes it has complied with all applicable wage regulations. We are committed to creating a culture of loyalty, hard work and promotion from within.
"Our employees are the heart of our company and we remain committed to getting work done quickly and efficiently to get customers back on the road."