Earlier this month, Angeline Jean-Baptiste, a former Burger King employee, filed alawsuit in a Florida federal court alleging that Burger King had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). Specifically, Ms. Jean-Baptiste claims that her former employer failed to pay her for all the hours she worked, and that she was constructively discharged after repeatedly objecting to Burger King's illegal compensation practices.
According to Ms. Jean-Baptiste's complaint, she was hired by Burger King in March of 2011 to work as a "team member." Mostly, Ms. Jean-Baptiste worked as a cashier, but she was also required to do cleaning and other work. One of her job requirements was to clock-in at the beginning of each shift, and to clock-out at the end of her shift. However, Ms. Jean-Baptiste soon realized that clocking-out did not mean that her workday was over--it simply meant that Burger King did not intend to pay her for time she worked after her clock-out time. In other words, Burger King, wanted Ms. Jean-Baptiste to work "off the clock".
According to the FLSA, most employees must be paid at least the minimum wage for all hours worked. Since fast food restaurant cashiers are covered by this FLSA provision, Burger King's alleged practice of not paying Ms. Jean-Baptiste for some of her hours worked clearly violates the FLSA. Moreover, Burger King's alleged actions also constitute a violation of the FLSA's overtime provisions. These provisions require that employees be paid one-and-one-half their regular rate of pay for all hours they work in excess of forty in any given work week. Since Ms. Jean-Baptiste often worked over forty hours a week, the fact that she was not compensated for some of her hours means that she was not being paid at the FLSA-required overtime rate.
The complaint describes how Ms. Jean-Baptiste complained about her store managers' illegal payroll practices to Burger King's corporate office through their "We're Listening" hotline. However, according to the lawsuit, after investigating the matter and concluding that Ms. Jean-Baptiste's legal rights to fair compensation were being violated, Burger King's corporate office refused to give her a record of the hours she had worked, let alone the unpaid wages owed to her.
With little hope of getting Burger King to change its practices, Ms. Jean-Baptiste quit her job, claiming that Burger King had constructively discharged her. As the United States Department of Labor explains, the term "constructive discharge" refers to a workers resignation or retirement which is basically involuntary due to their employer's creation of a hostile or intolerable work environment. Employers will often consciously try to create such a work environment in order to make unwanted employees resign, especially if firing those employees would be illegal for some reason. For example, the FLSA makes it illegal for an employer to fire an employee because he or she asserted her rights under the FLSA. Therefore, an employer looking to get rid of such a "problem employee" might make their working conditions so bad that the worker quits "voluntarily." However, the law treats such a resignation as involuntary, as a constructive termination, and as legally equivalent to firing an employee. Ms. Jean-Baptiste asserts that she was subject to this type of termination.
If you have been retaliated against for asserting your rights at work, or if you would simply like to understand these rights better, you should contact as St. Louis overtime attorney.