Home Depot Settles FLSA Misclassification Case with Fourteen Plaintiffs for $376, 941.91; Over 100 Opt-Ins Dismissed Without Prejudice and Able To Bring Further Actions

On August 11, 2014, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California approved a settlement in the case Ambrosino, et al. v. Home Depot, U.S.A., Inc, which would award about $224,000 to the plaintiffs and about $113,600 to their counsel.

There was extensive legal wrangling about the constitution of the class of plaintiffs, and about confidentiality provisions in the settlement agreement, but the basic complaint in this case was relatively straightforward. Plaintiffs allege that Home Depot intentionally misclassified certain employees as managers in order to avoid paying them time-and-a-half for hours worked in excess of forty per week. Specifically, while the company paid its Department Heads, Supervisors, Store Managers, and Store Managers hourly wages and premium time-and-a-half pay when they worked overtime, another category of employees–Merchandising Assistant Store Managers (MASMs)–were classified as exempt from overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and never paid overtime.

In their complaint, plaintiffs allege that Home Depot classified them as “executives,” and thus as exempt under the FLSA, despite the fact that their job duties consisted primarily of non-managerial duties such as “packing and unpacking freight; setting product; cleaning the bathrooms and the store; picking up and taking out the garbage; returning shopping carts from the parking lot to inside the store; running registers; receiving trucks; building displays; cutting wood; painting displays; fixing tools; labeling product in overhead; and loading customers’ cars (‘tasking’). When Plaintiffs were not tasking and were on the floor, Plaintiffs spent the majority of their time providing customer service.”

Nationwide, the losses suffered by Home Depot’s “Assistant Managers” because of this policy are substantial: they are were required to work a minimum of 55 hours per week, and regularly have to work more than this, without ever receiving overtime pay. Plaintiffs characterize Home Depot as doing all of these things in willful violation of the FLSA, simply in order to save money on labor costs.

In the present case and several other, similar cases, judges have recently ordered that putative classes of plaintiffs be broken up and their cases transferred to different courts where those plaintiffs have resided and worked. For example, just as Judge Lorenz denied the Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification in Ambrosino, a judge in the District Court for Connecticut granted defendant Home Depot’s motion in James D. Costello, et al. v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc. to sever the claims of thirty-five plaintiffs and transfer their cases back to their home states.

Hopefully other attorneys will be as determined as those representing the plaintiffs in the Ambrosino case, since the basic question of whether Home Depot misclassified its Merchandising Assistant Managers in order to avoid paying them overtime wages seems to be getting answered in the plaintiffs’ favor in court.

If you believe your rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act to minimum wage or overtime pay have been violated, please contact The Harman Firm.