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Publix department managers join federal suit over unpaid work

So far, 37 assistant department managers and 18 department managers have joined the collective action lawsuit against the Florida grocer, a plaintiff attorney said.
 
A Publix grocery store is shown in in Neptune Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023.
A Publix grocery store is shown in in Neptune Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023. [ MARK LONG | AP ]
Published Nov. 21, 2023|Updated Nov. 22, 2023

Last month, three former assistant department managers from different states filed a federal lawsuit against Publix claiming Florida’s largest grocer did not pay them for overtime work.

Now, department managers can also join the collective action suit.

An amended complaint filed Tuesday in Tampa’s federal court added hourly managers from store departments like bakery, deli, meat, produce, seafood and grocery.

They face many of the same problems that assistant department managers experienced, the lawsuit said. The suit claims Publix required employees to work before and after their shifts, during unpaid lunch breaks and when they were away from the store, often handling scheduling and supplement management issues.

Assistant department managers and department managers worked about three to five hours overtime without pay every week, according to the lawsuit.

That would be a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, a federal law requiring employers to pay workers the minimum wage and time-and-a-half for overtime.

Publix did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday. Last month, director of communications Maria Brous stated that the grocer would look into the assistant department managers’ claims and “respond accordingly.”

The original lawsuit names employees who worked at stores in Tennessee, Georgia and Florida, including an employee from a Spring Hill store.

Two more names were added to the lawsuit — one from Bradenton and the other in the Atlanta area — on behalf of Publix department managers in similar situations over the past three years.

The plaintiffs are being represented by attorneys at Morgan & Morgan and Shavitz Law Group.

Unlike a class action lawsuit, where employees in similar situations are automatically included in the lawsuit, a collective action suit requires workers to opt in to be able to receive any damages or settlement money.

So far, 37 assistant department managers and 18 department managers have joined, according to Morgan & Morgan attorney Ryan Morgan.

They expect more employees to join.

Publix — which announced this week it will have a new CEO and president — is Florida’s largest grocer with more than 1,300 locations across Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia and soon Kentucky.

The employees are asking the court to make the Florida grocer pay for the unpaid work and legal fees and for the grocer to fix its practices.