Settlement of a long-running class action lawsuit brought by workers against Stewart’s Shops could be approved first thing next year.
Both sides have agreed to the settlement, which goes before a federal judge in Binghamton for a hearing on Jan. 2.
People who worked for Stewart’s between Jan. 9, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2018, and were paid hourly were notified earlier this year they were eligible to benefit if they returned a claim form by Nov. 25.
Salaried members of management are not members of the lawsuit’s class and not eligible for payouts.
The case concerned claims that Stewart’s failed to pay some employees overtime for working more than 40 hours a week and failed to compensate employees for attendance at store meetings. Employees said they were asked to put in time before and after their shifts, when they were off the clock.
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The lawsuit was initially filed in 2014 on behalf of a former Stewart’s employee, Holly Gregory, who had worked at a Jefferson County Stewart’s Shop. Gregory said she was paid for working closing shifts only until 11:45 p.m. but was often at the store until 12:30 or 1 a.m.
Other employees with similar stories joined the lawsuit, and in 2016 it was certified as a class action. The plaintiffs are being represented by the E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy law firm of Troy.
Under the settlement, the judge will be asked to approve payment of up to $225,000 in lawyers’ fees and costs. Another $100,000 would compensate named plaintiffs and 146 opt-in plaintiffs who previously joined the lawsuit. The rest will be used to compensate those members of the class who submitted a claim.
Members of the class were notified by mail.
Payments will take into account the number of weeks employees worked for Stewart’s during the relevant period.
The total proposed settlement is $675,000. Stewart’s has not admitted to the claims but has agreed to the settlement. No date has been set for delivery of the checks, should the settlement be approved.
Stewart’s has about 330 shops and more than 4,000 employees.
Will Doolittle is projects editor at The Post-Star. He may be reached at email@example.com and followed on his blog, I think not, and on Twitter at @trafficstatic.