ST. LOUIS - A federal judge has certified a class action of 46 Steak 'n Shake managers in Missouri who claim they were not paid overtime wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
U.S. District Judge John Ross on Dec. 22 certified the class action brought by lead plaintiffs Sandra Drake and Randy Smith, which he had conditionally certified in 2015.
The class period runs from September 2012 through the present, according to the ruling.
"At its core, this case is about whether Plaintiffs qualify as exempt executive or administrative employees," Ross wrote.
"To be sure, the answer to that question turns on the individual employment experiences of each plaintiff, but Plaintiffs’ deposition testimony makes clear that those experiences are substantially similar in the most important ways: how the Plaintiffs spend the majority of their time at work; whether and to what extent they exercise management responsibilities; the amount of independence in their day-to-day job performance; and their participation in executive and administrative process."
Steak 'n Shake had argued against certification based on the premise that the managers are exempt from overtime pay because their job duties are executive or administrative.
Lawyers for the restaurant had further argued for decertification of the conditional class saying plaintiffs weren't similarly situated on key issues and therefore claims of the group could not be adjudicated without individual inquiry.
Ross held that standards for conditional certification are not rigorous, with plaintiffs only having to show a "colorable" basis for their claims and that a class of similarly situated individuals exist.
"The standard for avoiding decertification, however, is much stricter," Ross wrote.