Lawyers are ready to put to sleep a class action suit by assistant managers at Bed Bath & Beyond stores against the national retail chain, which gives $2.3 million to plaintiffs’ counsel and about $1,750 to each class member, in a suit that alleged the company shorted the managers out of overtime pay.
Brad Brede and Mary Przytula filed a class action July 11, 2017, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, against Bed Bath & Beyond, a housewares retailer based in Union, N.J. Brede and Przytula were assistant managers at Bed Bath & Beyond outlets in New York and suburban Chicago, respectively, from 2014 to 2016.
The proposed settlement in the case was presented Jan. 18 to U.S. District Judge Michael T. Mason, for Mason’s approval. The next hearing is Jan. 24.
Brede and Przytula alleged the retail chain classified them as salaried managers to avoid paying them overtime. The company then regularly made them work more than 40 hours per week, usually 45 to 55 hour weeks, doing much the same work as non-management, hourly paid employees, but without overtime pay. In turn, the hourly employees did not work overtime.
Plaintiffs claimed this is company-wide practice for Bed Bath & Beyond, violating the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act, as well as state wage laws.
“Bed Bath & Beyond staffs its retail stores leanly to minimize labor costs. Assistant store managers are not primarily responsible for true management functions. To the contrary, assistant store managers spend the vast majority of their time performing the same duties as non-exempt, hourly associates,” plaintiffs alleged.
Before filing suit, plaintiffs asked the company to negotiate reimbursement for the managers outside of court, but the company refused, leading to the class action, according to court papers. Bed Bath & Beyond has denied wrongdoing.
After working with mediator Michael D. Young, both sides agreed to have the company set up a settlement fund of $8.5 million. From this fund, both named lead plaintiffs are to collect $9,500 and nine other plaintiffs, who joined the action later, are to each get $1,400.
The attorneys would bring home about $2.8 million, plus $35,917 for expenses, if the judge approves the settlement. The attorneys’ proposed cut is “comfortably within the range” usually taken in such cases, the attorneys said in quoting a 2010 federal district court ruling.
Plaintiffs figured 3,150 people, who worked as assistant managers since July 11, 2014, qualify for class membership. Each would receive about $1,750, which is a “substantial percentage of the average participant’s alleged lost wages,” plaintiffs said.
Excluded from the settlement are Bed Bath & Beyond assistant managers who worked exclusively in New Jersey stores, and sued the company in New Jersey state court and U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Also, Rust Consulting, a Minneapolis-based settlement claims administrator, will pick up $50,000 for its service.
Plaintiffs are represented by the New York City firms of Outten & Golden, and Shavitz Law Group, as well as by Shulman Kessler, of Melville, N.Y.
Defendants are represented by Greenberg Traurig, which has offices in Chicago, New York City and Boston.