Liquor store managers ask judge to put a halt to mandatory Sunday work

Mark Hayward, The New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester
·3 min read

Feb. 23—CONCORD — Frustrated at having to work every Sunday, two New Hampshire liquor store managers are asking a judge to order their boss to give them the day off.

One of the managers, who runs the Milford liquor store, has worked every Sunday since early October, according to the lawsuit, which was filed last month in Merrimack County Superior Court.

Shelly Duggan suggested that the New Hampshire Liquor Commission close her store on Sunday, according to the lawsuit.

The other manager — Jacob Gorecki, manager of the Hinsdale liquor store — is under a corrective action plan after he ran the store understaffed one Sunday in July, the lawsuit reads.

"Both (managers) are being compensated for their time, but nothing can make up for the loss working on perpetual Sundays even when they choose not to do so," wrote their lawyer, John Krupski of Concord.

Krupski, who often represents public employee unions and their members, wrote that state law is on their side. A state law that went into effect 25 years ago specifically says that full-time employees of the Liquor Commission cannot be forced to work on Sunday.

The lawsuit comes as the state reports hefty financial returns. Sales have been up 5% since July 1, according to an earlier report, and profits in January amounted to $6.5 million, twice that of a year ago.

A spokesman for the state Liquor Commission, E.J. Powers, said he couldn't comment on pending litigation. So did a spokesman for outgoing Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, whose office is defending the case.

"It's pending litigation, so we're unable to comment," spokeswoman Kate Giaquinto said.

Responses to the lawsuit from MacDonald's office have been sealed. Giaquinto would not say why.

An online database of state employees shows that Duggan earned $57,800 in 2019 and Gorecki earned $53,700. Both are listed as retail store managers III positions.

Their problems started in 2020, according to the lawsuit.

The Liquor Commission closed multiple stores and reduced store hours because of the coronavirus pandemic, the lawsuit reads. Staffing has been a severe problem since March 2020, the suit said. State liquor stores are closed only three days a year: Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The lawsuit quotes an email that Gorecki received in July from regional supervisor Chris Keefe: "I expect you to do your job and ensure there is coverage every day the store is scheduled to be open."

The suit said Keefe never provided methods to attract employees who will work on Sunday.

Gorecki has gone as far as sending out emails statewide looking for people to work on Sunday. Despite his efforts, he still can't find a minimum of two people to be in the store all the time on Sunday.

He worries he will be disciplined if a store can't open on Sunday. Keefe has told him he will have to work every Saturday if he does not work Sunday, the lawsuit said.

Under state law, full-time workers get paid time-and-one-half wages on Sunday but can't be forced to work on Sunday. Internal personnel practices prevent managers from assigning part-time workers who have not specified they are available to work Sundays, the lawsuit said.

Superior Court Judge John Kissinger held a brief hearing on the issue Tuesday. He called for more filings before he schedules another hearing.

Powers said an entry-level store manager makes $25 an hour on Sundays. A store manager at the highest grade earns $48 per hour.