Judge Awards $2.9 Million to Waffle House Managers

August 28, 2001 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A federal judge has ordered the owner of a number of Waffle House franchises to pay 125 current and former managers about $2.9 million in back overtime pay for the non-management tasks they performed.

According to the lawsuit, managers at Waffle House franchises owned by Treetop Enterprises regularly worked an average of between 80 and 100 hours per week.

They regularly performed tasks such as operating grills and waiting tables, the suit said.

In the ruling, US District Judge William J. Haynes Jr., of the Middle District of Tennessee, rejected Treetop’s claims that the managers were executive employees and therefore exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime requirements.

The court pointed out that Treetop’s manager training manual stated that the primary objective for employees was for them to become proficient grill operators.

Gaining exposure to daily management duties was only a secondary objective, the judge said.

Number Crunching

In calculating the amount of the overtime pay owed the Waffle House managers, the court said that since the managers worked 10 hours per day on a weekly schedule of six days on and two days off,  they worked an average of 89 hours per work week, the judege said.

They often worked double and sometimes triple shifts, the court said.

Since employees initially accepted a job that called for 10-hour workdays for six days with two days off, the judge calculated that they had agreed to work an annual average of 53 hours per week.

Their weekly $579 paycheck was then divided by 53 to equal an hourly pay rate of $10.92.

According to the judge, Treetop owed the managers time-and-a-half, or $16.38, for all overtime hours over 53.

That amounted to an average of 36.2 hours per employee per week.

Based on 4,321 weeks of total employment for the plaintiffs, the judge said they were owed a total of about $2.87 million plus interest and attorneys fees.

Treetops had argued that working 89 hours per week was a physical impossibility, which the judge rejected.

The judge also rejected the argument that the hourly pay rate should have been calculated by dividing the $579 weekly salary by the total number of hours worked –89 instead of 53.

– Camilla Klein                           editors@plansponsor.com .