A federal judge in Boston has signaled he will sign off on a $10 million settlement agreement to end class action lawsuits against Dick’s Sporting Goods, including one brought in Chicago federal court, alleging the retailer cheated employees out of overtime pay by labeling them assistant managers.
U.S. District Judge Richard G. Stearns granted provisional approval to the settlement agreement between the Binghamton, N.Y.-based sporting goods retail chain and classes of plaintiffs represented in four separate class action suits brought in federal courts in Boston, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia. In his order, issued in December, Stearns said he intends to render a final ruling on the settlement agreement on April 1.
The complaints centered on claims Dick’s would routinely promote store associates to the position of assistant manager, yet give them no real managerial responsibilities, including denying them the authority to hire, fire, supervise, discipline or delegate work to other store associates. In fact, the lawsuits claimed, the assistant managers responsibilities were virtually indistinguishable from those of non-managerial store employees, with duties that included unloading and stocking merchandise, keeping the store and displays neat, running cash registers, putting up signs and displays and providing customer service.
However, despite the lack of difference in duties compared to non-managerial store employees, the assistant managers were classified as exempt from receiving overtime pay, as would otherwise have been required by federal and state labor laws, the lawsuit claimed.
According to the lawsuit filed in Chicago, plaintiff John Bouchard, who worked as an assistant manager at Dick’s store in Carbondale in southern Illinois, regularly worked up to 60 hours per week, yet was only paid for 40 hours. Bouchard, who is represented in the action by attorneys from the firm of Wexler Wallace LLP in Chicago, brought his lawsuit May 29. He asked the court to include a class of other plaintiffs which could include anyone who held the assistant manager title at any of Dick’s 23 Illinois stores anytime from 2012-2015.
The terms of the settlement agreement filed in December in Boston called for the certification of a number of plaintiff classes under federal and state wage and hour laws. The plaintiffs’ classes could potentially cover more than 2,200 people who worked at Dick’s stores in 23 states, including Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri and Michigan, at various times from 2010-2015, depending on the state. In Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Michigan, for instance, the class under state law would include those employed at Dick’s from 2012-2015, while in Wisconsin the class would only include those employed as assistant managers beginning in 2013.
Under the settlement terms, Dick’s has agreed to pay out $10 million, including as much as one-third of that total to attorneys representing the classes. Law firms designated as class counsel include Wexler Wallace; Klafter Lesser & Olsen, of Rye Brook, N.Y.; Hepworth, Gerschbaum & Roth, of New York; and Winebrake & Santillo, of Dresher, Pa.
Named plaintiffs, including Bouchard, would receive either $7,500 or $10,000 each, the settlement said.
The memorandum explaining the terms of the settlement filed in court did not specify how much each class member might expect to receive from the money left after paying the attorneys, class representatives and other administrative costs, but said the “distribution percentage” would depend on various factors, including how long various class members worked for Dick’s and how many people actually register to receive payment under the class actions.
Dick’s was represented in the action by attorneys with the firm of Jones Day, with offices in Atlanta; Pittsburgh; Boston; New York; San Diego; Palo Alto, Calif.; and Washington, D.C.
The action is docketed in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts as 1:13-cv-11390 Lapan, et. al. vs Dick’s Sporting Goods.