Judge conditionally certifies class in suit over allegations Steak N’ Shake owes managers overtime

By Elizabeth Alt | Oct 5, 2018

ST. LOUIS – On Aug. 28, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern Missouri District Court issued an order conditionally granting a former Steak N’ Shake manager’s motion to certify a class of former managers who may be owed overtime in a suit claiming violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Judge John A. Ross wrote the court order conditionally granting the motion to certify the class and denying Steak N’ Shake’s motion opposing the request to toll the statute of limitations.

According to the ruling, Corenna Clendenen was a manager for two years for Steak N’ Shake (SnS) locations in Peoria, Illinois and claims Steak N’ Shake managers were uniformly classified as exempt despite their workload in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Clendenen states that the primary duties for a manager primary weren't managerial or administrative, but “largely the same as nonexempt employees; SnS managers’ work was strictly controlled by SnS policy and oversight; SnS Managers were routinely scheduled to work, and did work, far in excess of forty hours per week; and SnS did not document or record hours worked by managers,” the ruling states.

The suit seeks to recover unpaid overtime and to certify a class of SnS managers who worked during the liability period from three years prior to the filing of the complaint, except for the St. Louis Group Market, who currently has a litigation pending against it for similar allegations, Drake v. Steak N' Shake.

Steak N’ Shake opposed the motion to certify the class, claiming “the day-to-day work experience of would-be class members varies too dramatically among Group Markets, GMs, and locations to proceed as a class,” the ruling states.

Steak N’ Shake also claimed that the “'the court has all the information needed to conclude that collective treatment is unwarranted,'" referring to the current case against the St. Louis Market, the ruling states.

Ross noted that in Drake, the court has “determined that the St. Louis managers are similarly situated," and that "Drake does not support SnS’s assertion." 

Ross stated that discovery in this case is still necessary since the discovery in Drake was limited to the St. Louis market managers. 

“The court therefore declines SnS’s implied invitation to find that all of these cases were improperly decided in the absence of Article III jurisdiction,” the ruling states.

Ross found that Clendenen had provided “modest factual support” for her original allegations that "a class of similarly situated employees likely exists based on a single, potentially FLSA-violating policy that, if proven, would give rise to class-wide liability.”

Ross stated that because of the scope of the case, and an “abnormally long” delay of over a year before ruling on Clendenen’s motion to conditionally certify the class, it was “certainly outside the control of potential opt-in plaintiffs.”

Ross ordered the class conditionally certified for “a class consisting of current and former SnS Managers who were employed at any time during the three years prior to May 1, 2017, at a restaurant in in any domestic Group Market other than the St. Louis Group Market, as those terms were then defined by SnS.”

United States District Court Eastern District of Missouri, Eastern Division case number 4:17-cv-01506-JAR

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