Two managers from the defunct Dominick's supermarket chain have filed a class action lawsuit in Chicago's federal court, alleging their former employer routinely required them to work more than 40 hours a week without paying them overtime.
Janice Balonek and Jana Bready lodged their complaint Feb. 28 against Dominick's and its erstwhile corporate parent, Safeway, asserting the companies violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the Illinois Minimum Wage Law by failing to pay overtime wages they believe they earned.
As general merchandise managers and assistant general merchandise managers in the Dominick’s chain, Balonek and Bready state in their complaint they believe as many as 50 or more of their peers were treated in a similar fashion by Dominick’s and Safeway, supporting their request to certify the suit as a class action.
Balonek and Bready are being represented by Chicago attorneys Robin Potter, M. Nieves Bolanos and Patrick Cowlan of Robin Potter & Associates P.C., as well as Martin Dolan and Karen Munoz of the Dolan Law Offices P.C.
According to the suit, Balonek had worked for Dominick’s since 1986 as an assistant general merchandise manager at stores in Chicago and Willowbrook and most recently as a general merchandise manager at stores in Naperville and Woodridge, starting in 1993.
Bready, the suit states, had worked as a general merchandise manager at Dominick’s stores in Chicago and in Frankfort, beginning in 2001.
They remained in those positions until California-based Safeway closed all Dominick’s locations in late December 2013 and ended operations at the Chicago area supermarket chain Safeway had purchased in 1998.
Dominick’s had employed about 6,600 workers, according to published reports.
During their decades of employment, Bready and Balonek contend that they and others in similar positions in the chain regularly logged long hours at the stores, usually far exceeding 40 hours a week.
The long, weekly work hours were “required, approved and/or suffered and permitted” by Dominick’s and Safeway, the complaint states.
However, the duo asserts that general and assistant general merchandise managers never received the enhanced hourly pay required by law for hours worked in excess of 40 hours weekly, because Dominick’s and Safeway classified the merchandise managers as salaried workers exempt from overtime compensation requirements.
In their complaint, Bready and Balonek argue the work they performed for Dominick’s was more typical of workers to whom the law requires overtime compensation be paid.
Those specific job duties, they claim, included “breaking down pallets, unpacking boxes, stocking and organizing shelves and displays, placing orders and scanning product to check inventory."
They allege the type of job duties they had should have classified them as “non-exempt” hourly employees, eligible for overtime pay as required by both the state and federal laws.
The suit also alleges that the defendants “failed to maintain accurate records of time worked” by Bready, Balonek and others in similar positions.
As compensation for the alleged violations, Bready and Balonek want the court to award damages, including back pay for all the years in which overtime pay was allegedly improperly withheld and compensation dating back to early 2011.