Five hourly employees of Gerber Products have filed a potential multimillion-dollar lawsuit against their bosses at the Fort Smith baby food plant, claiming they require them to work more than 40 hours per week without being provided overtime pay, according to a complaint filed in federal court.
The complaint, which was initially filed in Sebastian County Circuit Court, has been removed to U.S. District Court in Fort Smith, according to court documents.
The plaintiffs claim they are required to change into Gerber-supplied uniforms and protective gear at the facility before they are allowed to "clock in" and are required to "clock out" before they remove the uniforms and protective gear at the end of their shift, which amounts to an estimated four hours of uncompensated time each week, according to the complaint.
The complaint also claims employees are periodically required to work through their lunch hour without compensation.
Fort Smith attorney Joe Byars and members of the Little Rock law firm, Holleman & Associates, represent the plaintiffs.
Counsel for the plaintiffs are also asking the court to certify the complaint as a class action, with their clients representing hundreds of current and former hourly employees of Gerber's Fort Smith facility.
The complaint doesn't specify a dollar amount sought; instead it asks the court to:
--Determine Gerber willfully violated the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act, which requires non-exempt hourly employees be paid 1 1/2 times their hourly wage for hours worked beyond 40 in a work week.
--Restrain Gerber from withholding compensation due employees in the future.
--Order a complete and accurate accounting of compensation owed to plaintiffs and the class.
--Enter a judgment against Gerber for an amount equal to the unpaid wages.
--Enter a judgment against Gerber equal to the compensatory damages.
In documents filed by legal counsel for Gerber removing the complaint to federal court, it claims the amount in dispute exceeds $5 million, "consideration of the claims of hundreds of the putative (supposed) class."
Officials at the Fort Smith Gerber Plant did not respond.