A Harris Teeter employee is suing the Matthews-based grocery chain for failing to pay some employees for the time they spent driving to pick up keys from a manager to open the store.
Employees also were required to clock out of work for an unpaid 30 minutes each shift even though they had to continue working during that break, according to the federal lawsuit, filed last week.
Terry Laurence is suing Harris Teeter, where he currently works, on behalf of himself and other hourly paid employees who work as keyholders, who do some management work, grocery managers and assistant grocery mangers. Harris Teeter has 243 stores in seven states, including North Carolina and South Carolina, and the District of Columbia. Harris Teeter is owned by Cincinnati-based Kroger and is the largest grocery chain in the Charlotte metro area by market share, according to Chain Store Guide.
“It’s very common in this job market for large numbers of employees to be shorted wages even in small ways,” said Nicholas Conlon, an attorney representing Laurence. “Workers are entitled to this money and we’re willing to fight for them.”
Harris Teeter did not immediately return requests for comment on Monday.
On Tuesday, the company issued a statement saying: “Harris Teeter is committed to creating a great place to work for our valued associates. While we cannot comment on the specifics of this case, we believe this lawsuit is without merit. Further, Harris Teeter has a policy which strictly prohibits off the clock work.”
Laurence joined Harris Teeter in 2011 and worked as a stocker, or person who stocks the shelves with products, until 2015. He was re-hired in June 2016 and was promoted to the position of keyholder several weeks later until July 2017, when returned to being a full-time stocker. Laurence has worked primarily in Wake Forest, where several Harris Teeter stores are open 24 hours, and he also worked in Raleigh.
According to the lawsuit, During Laurence’s year as keyholder he:
▪ Opened and closed the store, unloaded trucks, performed register overrides – which is granting permission for certain transactions on a cash register – and addressed customer concerns.
▪ Was scheduled to work shifts from 10:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. and required to take a 30-minute unpaid break each shift.
▪ Required to clock out for 30 minutes, but had short rest periods of less than 20 minutes because he had to work during the break, such as the cash register overrides or address customer concerns.
▪ Drove to the grocery manager’s home before and after his shifts to pick up and drop off store keys, but was not paid for that time.
Because he worked before and after his shift and during his breaks, Laurence frequently worked more than 40 hours per week, according to the lawsuit, but was not paid time and a half for all of his hours of overtime, according to the lawsuit.
When Laurence was paid for overtime because he worked on the clock more than 40 hours, the overtime pay was improperly calculated for not including profit bonus pay, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges Harris Teeter violated federal labor law and the N.C. Wage and Hour Act.