In a recent legal development, supermarket giant Publix is under fire as a collective action complaint has been filed against the Florida-based business. The lawsuit, filed by Morgan & Morgan and Shavitz Law Group, alleges that Publix forced hourly assistant department managers to work without pay before and after their scheduled shifts, constituting a violation of labor laws.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, is brought forth by three former Publix employees from Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia. According to the claim, these employees, along with others, were not compensated for hundreds of overtime hours during which they performed tasks such as cleaning, stocking shelves, and assisting customers during off-shifts.
One disturbing aspect highlighted in the lawsuit is the alleged interference with unpaid meal breaks. The complaint states that workers were "routinely interrupted" during these breaks to engage in work-related activities, such as texting or calling coworkers and completing paperwork and reports. The suit further contends that these employees did not receive proper meal breaks or complete payment for work conducted during these breaks.
The legal action is not limited to the three initial complainants, as Morgan & Morgan and Shavitz Law Group are encouraging other Publix assistant department managers who may have experienced similar issues to join the collective action. The law firms claim to have heard from "dozens" of Publix store employees across several states, including Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina, who allegedly faced comparable problems.
In response to the allegations, Publix, which operates over 1,350 outlets and is headquartered in Florida, stated that it rarely comments on pending litigation but felt compelled to address the nature of the claims involved. A Publix representative conveyed via email to Grocery Dive that the company pays its associates legally and offers a comprehensive benefits package, including business ownership, as an associate-owned company. The representative acknowledged the seriousness of the claims and assured that Publix would respond appropriately.
Morgan & Morgan attorney Ryan Morgan and Shavitz Law Group attorney Gregg Shavitz emphasized the broader issue of companies expecting constant communication from employees, often without proper compensation or tracking of time worked. The lawsuit seeks unpaid overtime, liquidated damages, interest, an injunction to halt Publix's alleged unlawful practices, and reimbursement of attorneys' costs.
As the legal proceedings unfold, this case sheds light on the challenges faced by hourly workers dealing with off-the-clock work expectations and serves as a reminder of the importance of fair labor practices in the workplace.