Dollar General faces lawsuit over unpaid lunch breaks

5:43 PM, Jul 3, 2013   |    comments
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By Bobby Allyn / The Tennessean 

Two Dollar General employees from Eastern Tennessee have filed a collective action lawsuit in Nashville alleging that the discount retailer forced them to work during unpaid lunch periods, which is a violation of federal labor laws.

The practice, according to the suit, is prevalent at other Dollar General stores around the country, including locations in Illinois, Missouri and South Carolina.

Rachel Buttry and Jennifer Peters each were supervisors at a Dollar General store in Bulls Gap, outside of Kingsport. Although their employee handbook states that employees can be fired for working when off the clock, the lawsuit claims that the women were forced to open registers, run returns, void items, among other duties.

Other employees, by contrast, are allowed to leave the store premises during the 30-minute unpaid lunch period.

According to the suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, those actions run afoul of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Buttry and Peters, according to the suit, were "forced to perform work for defendant, on defendant's premises, in plain sight, during their unpaid meal breaks."

Despite Dollar General executives, managers and other company agents having knowledge of the practice, nothing was done to stop it, the suit says.

The Bulls Gap women complained about working off the clock, but, according to the suit, their bosses told them it was company policy.

Memphis-based attorney B.J. Wade teamed up with San Francisco firm Audet & Partners to file the suit.

The attorneys would like to let Dollar General employees who held so-called "keyholder" positions in the past six years to join the suit - if they were unpaid and asked to do work during lunch breaks.

Seeking unspecified damages, the suit asks for a trial in which the two plaintiffs and others who opt-in will be given unpaid wages.

A spokeswoman for Dollar General did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

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