On behalf of our client, an employment discrimination case was filed against a large multinational drug/pharmacy retainer in the Bergen County Superior Court in New Jersey. Our client (the plaintiff) was a 61 year-old Store Manager, who had been employed by the company for 12 years. The lawsuit alleged that the store’s district manager (DM) began a campaigned designed to harass, intimidate, frighten and bully our client to force his resignation as a Store Manager. The DM’s conduct included treating the plaintiff in a harsh and cruel manner, including yelling and screaming in order to create an intimidating working environment and force plaintiff to quit his position.

The complaint alleged that the DM accorded preferential treatment to a female employee, who works under the plaintiff, and thus discriminated against the plaintiff on account of his sex.

The complaint also alleged that the retainer maintained a company-wide policy of forcing older store managers to resign by any means necessary, including, but not limited to, limiting such manager’s payroll budget, resulting in the store not being able satisfy the company’s standard, thereby criticizing the performance of older store managers.

The complaint also alleged overtime wages by purposefully classifying Store Managers as “managerial and/or executive employee,” and therefore “exempt” from the payment of overtime wages. However, plaintiff does not make any managerial or executive decision as a store Manager. Store Managers, including the plaintiff, are micro-supervised and micro-managed by the DMs, Regional Officers, and corporate human resources personnel. The plaintiff was required to work an average of 65 or more hour per week without payment of overtime wages.

The complaint further alleges that the retainer instituted and enforced a company-wide policy of deliberately limiting its payroll budget to each store, including plaintiff’s store, resulting in store managers, including the plaintiff, performing activities normally associated with hourly-paid employees. Although plaintiff was classified as a “exempt” “executive” or “managerial employee”, and paid a salary, plaintiff spent a majority of his working hours (an average in excess of 65 hour per week) performing non-managerial duties and functions, such as cashier, stock and re-stock shelves, sweep and mop floors, clean parking areas, taking out store trash, clean bathrooms and other areas of the store, load and unload trucks, and performed other tasks normally assigned to hourly employees. Despite performing these non-managerial tasks the majority of his working hours, the company continued to classify plaintiff as an “exempt” employee in order to avoid the payment of overtime wages for time and a-half in excess of 40 hours per week.

Further, the complaint alleges that the company instituted a company-wide policy requiring Store Managers to “Punch in” on a time clock, but prohibited such managers from “punching out.” The intent and purpose of such policy was to avoid the payment of overtime wages and deprive the plaintiff of lawfully earned income.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) prohibits discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment. An employer may not discriminate against an employee because of age, sex, gender, race, ethnicity, national original, disability, etc. Further, an employer cannot “make life difficult” for an employee in order to encourage or force her/him to resign on account of the factors listed above.

Further, the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law requires each employer to pay an employee one and one-half times her regular rate for every hour in excess of 40 hours per week, unless the employee is properly classified and except under a “bona fide executive capacity.” It is improper for an employer to classify an employee as “executive” simply to avoid the payment of overtime wages, if the employee’s main and primary duties does not involve making managerial or executive decisions.

This case was resolved by mutual agreement between the parties.