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By Porter Wells
A former Pei Wei Asian Diner assistant manager says the restaurant chain wrongfully denied him and other employees overtime wages in violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
Claims of restaurants improperly classifying their assistant managers as exempt from FLSA’s overtime pay provisions are not unheard of. Several large companies in recent years have paid out millions of dollars to settle lawsuits brought by classes of assistant managers. In 2016, Noodles & Company paid $3 million to settle overtime pay claims brought by a class of assistant general managers. Bob Evans Farms Inc. in 2015 agreed to pay out a $16.5 million settlement to a class of restaurant assistant managers.
In the present case, Nicholas Rike says he routinely worked 60 to 70 hours per week during his three-year tenure at a Pei Wei restaurant in St. Louis, Missouri. Pei Wei had classified his position as exempt from the FLSA overtime provisions, however, and he never received increased compensation for those overtime hours he worked, according to Rike’s complaint filed January 23, 2018, in the Eastern District of Missouri.
Pei Wei didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Rike also says his situation at the pan-Asian fare chain was not unique, and his lawsuit seeks to represent other similarly situated managers in a collective action. According to the lawsuit, Pei Wei has a policy of classifying its assistant managers as exempt from overtime pay requirements despite those workers generally performing “manual, non-exempt job duties such as customer service, preparing food, taking orders, and cleaning the restaurant.”
Rike further says that he and other similarly-situated assistant managers did not exercise discretion on matters of importance, nor were their primary duties directly related to Pei Wei’s general business operations. Such discretion and independent judgment over significant work functions is required for an employee to qualify as exempt from the overtime wages provisions of the FLSA.
The case is Rike v. Pei Wei Asian Diner, LLC, E.D. Mo., No. 4:18-cv-00102, complaint 1/23/18.
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