Publix assistant managers sue, claiming they worked unpaid overtime

Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS

Three former Publix assistant department managers are suing the Lakeland-based grocery store giant in federal court claiming they were forced to work unpaid overtime.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in the Middle District of Florida, was brought by staff members who worked at stores in Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. They are suing on behalf of themselves and “all others similarly situated.”

The plaintiffs, represented by Orlando-based Morgan and Morgan as well as Boca Raton-based Shavitz Law Group, estimate they worked on average five or more hours of unpaid overtime per week. Their attorneys estimate the issue likely affected more than 10,000 people in the past three years.

The suit seeks unpaid overtime, attorney’s fees and other damages.

Work performed before or after clocking out included walking the department with supervisors, the lawsuit claims, cleaning, helping customers and other tasks. The plaintiffs would also clock out for meal breaks but were “routinely interrupted during unpaid breaks to handle work matters,” the lawsuit said.

“While Defendant required Assistant Department Managers to work overtime hours, it did not pay them for all hours worked including time spent working inside Publix stores performing pre- and post-shift work off-the-clock required by Publix or their supervisors; time spent working during unpaid meal breaks; and time spent outside of Publix stores communicating with supervisors and co-workers, and other directives, off-the-clock,” the lawsuit claims.

Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous said in an email the company takes the claims seriously and will respond appropriately.

“As an associate-owned company, we are proud to provide our associates with a comprehensive benefits package – including company ownership – in addition to paying our associates in accordance with the law,” Brous said.

The lawsuit said they and other current and former employees have been “deprived of overtime compensation and other wages in amounts to be determined at trial.”

“Defendant’s unlawful conduct has been widespread, repeated, and consistent,” the lawsuit claims.

Publix has 250,000 employees, with more than 1,350 stores across the Southeast.