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MORE CLAIMS FILED IN LABOR DEPARTMENT PROBE INTO OFF-THE-CLOCK WORK AT FOOD LION

 MORE CLAIMS FILED IN LABOR DEPARTMENT PROBE
 INTO OFF-THE-CLOCK WORK AT FOOD LION
 WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- The United Food & Commercial Workers Union issued the following:
 A supplemental complaint filed today against Food Lion, Inc., adds 55 new claims for unpaid overtime work to the 150 filed last September with the U.S. Department of Labor, which is probing allegations the grocery chain has a corporate-wide scheme to work employees off the clock in violation of federal law.
 The Charlotte Observer reported on Feb. 4 that the Labor Department investigation of Food Lion is one of only six national company-wide probes conducted each year by its Wage and Hour Division. The September complaint was accompanied by voluminous evidence, including statements from employees naming 159 regional and area supervisors and one current Food Lion vice president who directed or knew of off-the-clock work or knew about alteration of time records to conceal it. The United Food & Commercial Workers Union assisted the employees in filing both complaints.
 The new claims "confirm" that Food Lion's "effective scheduling" system, which allocates a certain number of hours to complete assignments and punishes employees for not getting their work done, is "the engine that drives off-the-clock work," despite a corporate policy purporting to prohibit unpaid work, the complaint says. It estimates Food Lion receives a minimum of $64.6 million worth of free labor from the system, or about 37 percent of its 1990 net after-tax profit.
 The new documents ask the government to file a class action lawsuit to stop the three-year statute of limitations on claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act and "preserve" as many employee claims as possible. The government should also seek a civil penalty of $1,000 per violation under provisions added to the law in 1989, the supplemental complaint urges.
 The additional claims demonstrate "Food Lion continues consistently and pervasively to work its employees off the clock in violation of federal wage-and-hour laws, and continues to alter and falsify employees time records to conceal off-the-clock work and avoid paying overtime," the new complaint states. More than 70 stores in 42 communities and six states are included in the new claims.
 Also included with the claims is a survey in which more than 83 percent of all claimants said, "Food Lion managers or supervisors were aware that employees worked off the clock." Nearly 75 percent cited managers or supervisors telling them "to do 'whatever it takes' to get the job done" as inducing off-the-clock work.
 The supplemental complaint also contains statements from employees concerning their off-the-clock work (the names omitted here have been provided to the Department of Labor to protect the privacy of the individuals since Food Lion has sued some employees for indemnification for off-the-clock work).
 -- "I started working off the clock the second week I worked for Food Lion," said a former Charlotte, N.C., perishable manager. "I worked off the clock in each of the (7) stores I worked in. When I started working for Food Lion at Store no. 44, my (department manager) told me the only way I could move up in the Food Lion company was if I worked off the clock."
 -- "Having a wife and two children to support, I too was afraid to risk losing my job and worked harder and longer," said a former Mint Hill, N.C., dairy clerk discharged two days before the original complaint was filed. "I was told by my immediate supervisor that if I didn't meet Food Lion's standards or thought my job was hard, I would see how hard it would be without a job and (my supervisor) would see to it that I would not be able to collect unemployment while I looked for another one."
 -- "As a management person," wrote a former Eastern North Carolina store manager, "I don't legally have a claim here. I would be willing to help out, however, those people that do." The statement notes: "Area Supervisors were very aware that Effective Scheduling was impractical." He states knowledge of employees being threatened or given "unfair references."
 -- "When I told my supervisor I was working off the clock, he wrote me up and then the same day gave me a one dollar an hour raise," stated a former Jacksonville, Fla., meat wrapper.
 -- "(My store manager) would tell me, 'You only have so many hours to get the job done. I'm not telling you to work off the clock, but you have to get the job done,'" said a Johnson City, Tenn., perishable manager who quit in mid-1991. When area supervisors were told, "I did not have enough hours to get the job done, their response would be, 'I'll be in tomorrow to make sure the work is done and it had better be done.'"
 Three private lawsuits have been filed in North Carolina federal courts since the original complaint was filed last September, the supplemental complaint reveals, representing "but a few of the many thousands of employees who potentially have claims but for whom the statute of limitations is running while the Department of Labor continues its investigation."
 The new complaint also cites a Jan. 24, 1992 ruling of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upholding dismissal of Food Lion's counterclaim against a department manager for allowing off-the-clock work as "something the FLSA simply will not allow." The ruling also upheld an award of $53,000 in back pay and damages against Food Lion for off-the-clock work by two former employees.
 The government should "require Food Lion to cease threatening employees with such retaliatory suits, and to advise its employees in writing that such suits are not allowed under the Fair Labor Standards Act," the new documents ask. "Such action is necessary to remove the strong disincentives such threats have caused to cooperation by employees in exposing Food Lion's violations of the Act."
 The new complaint urges the government to seek an injunction prohibiting Food Lion from: (1) operating its effective scheduling system "in a manner which causes off-the-clock work;" and (2) disciplining employees who fail to meet effective scheduling standards or work off the clock to meet the standards.
 Food Lion human resources managers are soliciting affidavits from current employees, the complaint explains, about whether they worked off the clock in violation of company policy. It cautions the Labor Department against relying on such evidence to determine the scope of off-the-clock work at Food Lion.
 "Employees are well aware that admitting off-the-clock work at Food Lion can lead to severe consequences, including discharge," and cause employees to lose nonvested profit sharing benefits and health coverage, the complaint maintains. As a result, "any 'assurances' that Food Lion may now give that it will not retaliate against current employees who admit working off the clock are not likely to be believed by the employees."
 "Accordingly, many employees are likely to feel coerced into giving the same false statements that they have been signing for years in order to keep their jobs and protect their families," the complaint adds. It urges the government to "discount any exculpatory affidavits" signed by employees stating that they have never worked off the clock.
 -0- 2/27/92
 /NOTE: Copies of the new complaint are available by calling the contacts below./
 /CONTACT: Neel Lattimore, 704-525-2600, or Al Zack, 202-466-1533, both of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union/
 (FDLN) CO: United Food and Commercial Workers Union ST: District of Columbia IN: SU:


SB -- DC005 -- 3147 02/27/92 10:01 EST
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Date:Feb 27, 1992
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