A PPG Paint rep who claimed overtime for the hours he worked at several Lowe’s stores won $24,400 -- double his back pay -- in a Washington State court, according to a summary in the Washington Employment Law Letter. Counting the plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees, PPG Industries was ordered to pay $470,000 in a case that could reverberate through the aisles of big-box stores across the nation.
Andrew Fiore, a territory manager for PPG Industries, was responsible for promoting Olympic brand paints and stains in 11 Lowe’s stores (nine were in Washington and two were in Oregon). His responsibilities included stocking shelves, maintaining the displays and paint chip racks, and helping customers. Fiorce was required to visit two stores each day and spend four hours in each store. Each of his 11 stores had to be checked on at least three times a month. A lot of driving time was involved.
Responding to email, voicemail and writing reports put Fiorce way over a 40-hour work week, considered the maximum number of hours without overtime.
After his discharge from PPG, Fiorce sued for unpaid overtime, which he calculated at $12,000, based on his hourly rate. PPG argued that Fiorce was an administrative employee and therefore exempt.
The trial court disagreed. Fiorce had been misclassified as an “exempt” employee, it said. Mostly he performed manual labor and had no authority to mark down prices or change promotional materials without the store manager’s approval. Nor did he work with PPG’s financial or budgetary departments. Because the failure to pay overtime was found to be “willful,” the $12,000 was doubled to $24,000 as per state law.
PPG made an unsuccessful attempt to transfer the case to federal court, upping the legal fees for both parties. It also appealed to the Washington Court of Appeals, where it lost.
An attempt to reach PPG Industries for comment was unsuccessful.
In its analysis of the case, the Washington Employment Law Letter warned employers that “The administrative exemption is the most difficult of all the overtime exemptions to apply.” And when it comes to relatively modest wage and overtime claims, think about the attorneys’ fees before you rush off to court.