Burger Kings in Florida are seeing stormy weather ahead. A new lawsuit that originated in Florida and is now in federal court, alleges that the Burger King Corporation misclassified operations coaching managers and managerial trainees as exempt employees in order to save the national fast food chain money. However, by putting these employees on an exempt salary, it opened up the company to liability.
The managers, or “coaches” and the trainee employees did not fall under any sort of exemption promulgated by either federal or Florida state law. They did not have any sort of supervisory tasks; even the coaches were participating in laborious, non-specialized tasks like cleaning bathrooms and cashiering.
The company allegedly sought to circumvent overtime and double time laws. Stores needed to get tasks done but did not want to pay for the extra hours it might take to complete these tasks. Trainees, specifically, were waiting for a permanent managerial position to open up at a store so there was a continuous overstock of managerial labor. As a result, they were assigned non-exempt duties, but still paid as if they were managers already.
Trainees had to work four days a week, for up to 13 hours a day, to fulfil their “corporate leadership development program” to become full-fledged managers. For those hours, however, they were cooking hamburgers and cleaning the restaurant, rather than doing managerial training. The lawsuit alleges that the company misclassified its employees on purpose, “The policy saves millions of dollars in labor costs…years of litigation (even unsuccessful) is more cost effective than complying with the law due to its rolling statute of limitations.” More than 1,500 employees might qualify to be a part of this class.