Judge denies summary judgment for plaintiffs in wage class action against Steak N Shake

By Sam Knef | Dec 17, 2018

JEFFERSON CITY — U.S. District Judge John A. Ross has denied partial summary judgment sought by a plaintiff class in a wage lawsuit against Steak N Shake.

In a ruling issued Dec. 10, Ross held that when "conflicting inferences can be drawn from the facts, summary judgment is inappropriate."

In the case, filed in federal court in 2014, lead plaintiffs Sandra Drake and Randy Smith represent 286 current and former managers suing Steak N Shake for unpaid overtime under the Missouri Minimum Wage Law and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Background information in the ruling states that Steak N Shake restaurants typically are staffed with a general manager, a manager, production and service trainers and front line production and service associates, although not all stores have all staff positions filled. Further, management employees often help in the manual labor of producing and serving food.

Under the FSLA, employers must pay employees time and a half for all time worked after 40 hours per week, unless the employee qualifies for a statutory exemption.

"SnS Managers routinely work fifty or more hours per week, but the corporation classifies them as exempt from overtime and pays them an annual salary, pursuant to the executive and administrative exemptions in the FLSA.," the court document said.

In their motion for summary judgment, the plaintiffs argued that Steak N Shake could not show that managers qualified for either exemption.

They argued that managers spent most of their time preparing and serving food—the same work hourly associates performed—and that such work was “life blood” of the restaurant, the document said.

In response, Steak N Shake argued that managers perform management duties even while making or serving food.

"Plaintiffs have presented evidence from which a jury could infer that SnS Managers’ primary duty is the same manual labor of food production and service engaged in by hourly employees.," Ross wrote. "SnS has responded with evidence from which a jury could infer that SnS Managers’ primary duties are managerial, administrative, or a mix of both.”

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