Albertson’s Inc. has been targeted by another class-action lawsuit alleging the supermarket chain illegally profits by coercing its employees to work off-the-clock without pay.
But Albertson’s spokesman Michael Read said the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Boise on behalf of union and non-union employees in 17 states was the latest in a series of allegations the union has yet to back up with specific evidence that the company can investigate.
“This is a nicely orchestrated campaign of lawsuits, but we have not been able to look at any of the underlying claims,” Read said Monday.
Boise-based Albertson’s, which has more than 800 stores and 85,000 employees in 20 states, also faces related class-action lawsuits backed by the union in Washington, California and Florida. A fourth suit in New Mexico was brought on behalf of an individual plaintiff, the union said.
The complaints allege Albertson’s, the nation’s fourth-largest supermarket chain, threatens to discipline employees who claim unpaid wages for off-the-clock work.
The latest suit, filed last week, cited the case of former Albertson’s employee Lori M. Barton of Mountain Home, who worked as a manager and clerk from 1988-90 and 1992-97. It alleges Albertson’s retaliated against her through work assignments and subjected her to “coercive interrogation” by store security personnel after she filed a claim for payment of off-the-clock work late last year.
According to the complaint, Barton was given work assignments she could not complete within her scheduled hours.
She was threatened with reduced and changed hours, demotion and firing if she failed to complete the work during her shift.
“As a result, she worked off the clock in order not to suffer the threatened adverse treatment and she also witnessed other employees working off the clock,” the lawsuit says.
In addition, it contends that when Barton injured her shoulder at work her store director told her not to file a worker’s compensation claim. “She was told that her worker’s compensation claim would come off of the store bonuses and cost $5,000,” the complaint alleges.
Joe Peterson, a Seattle attorney hired by the union to handle the case, said the Albertson’s policy of docking managers’ bonuses when employees of their stores file worker’s compensation claims creates an environment in which workers fear retaliation.
However, Read said the United Food & Commercial Workers has not provided Albertson’s with copies of the statements and has pressured local union officials not to cooperate with the company’s attempts to resolve complaints.
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