Workers in three states sued Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries, saying they've wrongly been denied overtime while stocking and servicing Lowe's home improvement stores that sell PPG's paints and stains.
Additionally, two of the three plaintiffs claim they received unwarranted discipline from PPG after they complained about the overtime issue, and that other workers who have complained have faced similar reprisals.
The suit was filed late Wednesday in U.S. District Court, Pittsburgh on behalf of three workers, one each in New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York. The lawsuit seeks back pay and damages and a federal court order to notify about 165 other PPG workers who do the same job at Lowe's stores in 40 states so they can join in the lawsuit.
"Here people are being asked to work 60 or 70 hours a week, many of them on an annual salary of less than $30,000 a year," said the plaintiffs' attorney, Bruce Fox. "How can anyone in America live on that kind of wage? This is another example of the corporate bottom line coming before people."
The workers, known as territory managers, contend the paint company wrongly treats them as overtime-exempt managers _ even though they don't supervise others or make managerial decisions _ and doesn't pay them for travel time between stores they service each day.
"Thus, territory managers often spend as many as two to three hours each day in compensable travel time beyond the hours worked within the Lowe's stores," the lawsuit states. "Due to PPG's misclassification of the territory managers as exempt employees, these employees have not been compensated at all, let alone as overtime."
PPG officials didn't immediately return calls Thursday.
The lawsuit said PPG requires the Territory Managers to work at least eight hours each work day "under the Lowe's roof."
"In other words, territory managers must perform in-store functions for eight hours a day, clocking in and out of the various store locations within their territory on Lowe's time clocks, even though they are not Lowe's employees," the lawsuit said.
As a result, they're not paid for their travel time, which the lawsuit contends violates the Fair Labor Standards Act.
"There's actually, in most cases, a tremendous amount of travel involved," Fox said, noting each employee serves several stores.
Two of the three plaintiffs were placed on a disciplinary performance improvement plan after they complained about the overtime issue during a conference call with company officials in October. The workers haven't been fired, but could be under PPG's disciplinary system, and contend they've had to work under that threat in retaliation for their complaints.