Class Action Claims ConAgra, Maker of Hunt’s, Chef Boyardee and More, Misclassified Employees to Enable 70-Hour Work Weeks
A former employee of ConAgra Food’s packaged foods division (which produces brands including Hunt’s, Swiss Miss, Chef Boyardee and Orville Redanbacher) claims the company purposefully misclassified workers as “executives,” put them on salary, and then paid them a “non-discretionary bonus” in order to have them work 70-hour weeks while skirting overtime laws.
Lead Plaintiff Eveyln Garrison is part of a class action suit filed last week under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Garrison estimates that 50 to 100 employees of ConAgra’s Russellville, Arkansas plant are included in the proposed class. In explaining her misclassification Garrison noted that she is not an “executive” as she is not the head of a customarily recognized company subdivision. According to the complaint,
Garrison did not have any control of or authority over any employee’s rate of pay or working hours. On average, Garrison worked approximately fifty (50) to seventy (70) hours per week. She did not receive any overtime compensation.”
Garrison and the other class action plaintiffs did not have the power to hire or fire, only their boss did. Further, ConAgra had been previously notified about its violations:
“Despite being on notice of its violations, defendant chose to continue to misclassify plaintiff and other members of the proposed collective class and withhold overtime wages to them in an effort to enhance its profits,” the complaint states. “Additionally, plaintiff and some members of the proposed collective class from time to time complained to defendant about the unlawfulness of defendant’s manner of payment and policies related to improper payment procedures.”
Garrison and co. seek lost wages and punitive damages for unjust enrichment, willfulness and violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and Arkansas Minimum Wage Act. ConAgra yesterday bought one of its competitors for $5 billion in cash.