Oct. 17--A former employee of Northampton's Urban Outfitters clothing store is suing the retailer in U.S. District Court, claiming the store violated federal labor law by failing to pay her overtime wages.
In the suit, Michelle Otero alleges that she was hired as a "department manager" and was treated as an exempt employee, allowing the company to have her work 55 hours per week without paying overtime.
But, the suit claims, she spent most of her work hours performing manual labor like cleaning, folding clothes and unloading shipments -- tasks which legally require the payment of hourly overtime.
"As part of its regular business practice, Defendant intentionally, willfully, and repeatedly engaged in a policy, pattern, and/or practice of violating the [Fair Labor Standards Act] with respect to Plaintiff," the suit says.
It is not the first time that Urban Outfitters has faced lawsuits for allegedly underpaying workers.
Three other department managers sued Urban Outfitters over similar claims in 2013. And in 2015, the company reached a $5 million settlement with workers who alleged overtime and break period violations in class action suits.
Urban Outfitters did not return a request for comment prior to publication.
Otero worked at the Northampton store as a department manager from June 2012 through May 2013, according to the complaint. She regularly worked more than 40 hours per week but was not paid for the excess hours, because she was classified as a salaried employee exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The FLSA requires that employees receive overtime pay when working more than 40 hours per week, unless their job has certain primary characteristics -- like supervision of other employees, high-level educational requirements or allowances for individual discretion and judgment.
Otero's job had no such responsibilities or privileges, the suit claims. Rather, despite the "manager" in her title, Otero spent most of her time doing manual labor.
The suit also claims that Otero's treatment was part of a broad policy of attempting to minimize labor costs by violating federal law. Urban Outfitters stores had to stay within tight labor budgets, leading managers to have salaried employees like Otero work extra hours without compensation rather than hiring hourly employees to perform manual work, according to the suit.
The store also had Otero report that she only worked 40 hours per week when she actually worked additional hours, the suit claims.
Otero is suing for unpaid wages and overtime compensation, as well as damages for the alleged violations of federal labor law.
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