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CONGRESS INVESTIGATES MULTI-MILLION WAGE AND HOUR COMPLAINT; FOOD LION 'EFFECTIVE SCHEDULING SCAM' SCORNED BY VICTIMS

 CONGRESS INVESTIGATES MULTI-MILLION WAGE AND HOUR COMPLAINT;
 FOOD LION 'EFFECTIVE SCHEDULING SCAM' SCORNED BY VICTIMS
 WASHINGTON, March 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Consumers United with Employees (C.U.E.) issued the following:
 Former managers and employees of Food Lion Inc. delivered shocking testimony to a U.S. Congressional subcommittee about a camouflaged pattern and practice of alleged illegal working conditions at the supermarket chain.
 The testimony included accounts of: workers forced to work up to an additional 25 uncompensated hours per week to meet the demands of an "effective scheduling" system; a cover-up of willful alterations of time records by Food Lion management; Food Lion supervisors obtaining exculpatory affidavits from current employees under inherently coercive circumstances; and firings and suspension of workers who failed to meet the company's stringent work place demands.
 According to a panel of employee witnesses, Food Lion maintains a "double jeopardy" policy known as "effective scheduling" which forces workers to put in extra, uncompensated hours of work.
 Monty Lee, a meat cutter at Food Lion's Mountain View, N.C., store told the committee: "Food Lion has a policy known as effective scheduling. This policy sets the number of hours each department within the store has each week to get their job done. In practice, this means each employee can only officially work a certain number of hours. However, workers are required to get the job done."
 Lee continued: "But this was not possible and most often resulted in employees working extra hours off the clock but not getting paid for them. If the employee could not get the assigned work done, then he or she was disciplined."
 Lee told committee members that he was sometimes forced to work 25 non-compensated hours off the clock per week, to meet the demands of Food Lion's effective scheduling requirements.
 Those allegations were supported today in testimony given by former Food Lion managers.
 Pete Carpenter, a former grocery manager of Food Lion's Southern Pines, N.C., store, said: "It was impossible for me to meet the demands of effective scheduling without working off the clock. Often is was necessary to switch hours between departments within the stores so that all departments could meet effective scheduling. I have personally switched hours between departments in order to meet the demands of effective scheduling."
 Carpenter asserted that the store manager and area supervisor were fully aware of these efforts to doctor the records.
 Customer Service Manager Beverly Hull also claimed she was aware of efforts by Food Lion management to alter records: "As a customer service manager ... I have witnessed (hours changing) on several occasions. I have also witnessed area and store representatives delete hours from a particular week and make a verbal statement, 'We'll take care of it later.' In fact I know some of my hours from Saturday nights were deleted and because of that practice, I never got paid for the extra hours I worked."
 By shifting and shuffling hours between work weeks, Food Lion can meet the demands of the effective scheduling system, which forces off the clock work, and maintains federally required wage and hour records that demonstrate little or no overtime; this has the effect of a cover-up.
 Hull exposed the ability of Food Lion's corporate officials to enter any store's computer system and manipulate schedules.
 The witnesses described the pressures associated with effective scheduling. "The supervisors never openly mentioned that we should work off the clock. They would just tell us to do what we had to do to get the job done. The only alternative was to work off the clock. If we didn't we would get written up for poor performance. This would eventually lead to a demotion and termination. The supervisors would verbally threaten employees to get the job done or else."
 Lee revealed that an executive of the company's human resources department, in response to the government's investigation, was pressuring Food Lion employees to sign form affidavits stating whether they were guilty of violating the company's policy prohibiting off the clock work. Of course, most employees will protect their jobs and not admit they worked off the clock.
 Food Lion supervisors collect these coerced affidavits for use as a trumped-up defense to charges that they violated federal wage & hour laws.
 Lee told the committee that, after he signed a form affidavit admitting that he worked off the clock, he was threatened with discharge and loss of his profit sharing benefits.
 The Food Lion supermarket chain has over 800 stores and earned $240 million gross profit and more than $172 million in 1990 net after tax profits. The complaint estimates the value of off the clock work performed each year at Food Lion represents over 37 percent of its net profit.
 On Sept. 11, 1991, 183 current and former Food Lion workers filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor accusing the chain of violating federal wage and hour laws. An additional 55 claims were filed in a supplement to the complaint on Feb. 26, 1992. The claims documented off the clock work in over 140 stores in 7 states. The claims also identified 159 company supervisors and officials who had knowledge of off the clock work or pressured employees to work off the clock.
 Additionally, a survey released to the Department of Labor with the Feb. 26 supplement indicates that 83.4 percent of surveyed Food Lion employees responded "yes" when asked, "Do you believe Food Lion mangers or supervisors were aware that employees worked off the clock?"
 The complaint asserts that interviews with Food Lion personnel demonstrate that the effective scheduling scam permeates the entire organization.
 The workers are asking the Labor Department to file a class action suit on behalf of all Food Lion employees seeking $338 million in back pay and damages and an injunction against Food Lion's use of the effective scheduling system to force off the clock work.
 The complaint alleges that Food Lion willfully avoided paying overtime to thousands of employees and attempted to cover it up by falsifying time records. The complaint further alleges that Food Lion has retaliated against employees who attempt to collect overtime pay or refuse to work the extra hours.
 Since the complaint was filed, four separate lawsuits have been filed in Virginia and North Carolina federal courts by over 50 Food Lion employees seeking payment for off the clock work.
 C.U.E. stands for Consumers United with Employees, a coalition of organizations formed to advance and enhance consumer and worker rights. C.U.E. advocates consumers and workers collaborating together for the common good to promote consumer and worker interest and protections.
 -0- 3/25/92
 /CONTACT: Keith Mestrich for Consumers United with Employees, 202-737-7200/ CO: Food Lion; Consumers United with Employees ST: District of Columbia IN: RET SU:


DC -- DC022 -- 1552 03/25/92 13:53 EST
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Date:Mar 25, 1992
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