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Case 11: Paying for the Actual Position
After Ronald Stillman was hired as a sales manager in a Staples store, he spent much of his time doing tasks normally assigned to an hourly employee, such as stocking shelves, sweeping floors, and waiting on customers. He also worked more than 40 hours a week but wasn’t paid overtime.
In a 2009 decision in Stillman v. Staples, Inc., a jury awarded Stillman and about 350 other current or former Staples employees more than $2.4 million in unpaid overtime compensation. The court ruled that Staples had failed to prove that the managers were exempt employees, and because the employees had worked more than 40 hours a week, they were entitled to overtime pay.
From 2000 to 2004, senior management at Staples had studied the sales manager position and found that, on average, sales managers performed more hourly than managerial tasks. In 2002, for example, the study found that Staples’s sales managers spent nearly two-thirds of their time on hourly tasks.
Also, sales managers had no authority to adjust associates’ pay or discipline them without the approval of a general manager and no discretion to deviate from certain company policies.
During the trial it was learned that Staples’s HR department was unaware that the company had conducted a study of the sales manager position earlier and had no exit-interview data to suggest why sales managers had left the company. Also, it could not demonstrate whether employees agreed that the actual job duties were as described in the job description.
If you were the employer, what would you have done to avoid this situation?
Stillman v. Staples, Inc., Civil Action No. 07-849 (KSH), U.S. Dist., New Jersey (Lexis 42247)