In an unusual move, Rite Aid Corp. is seeking dismissal of an overtime class action filed by a former drugstore employee, asserting it is identical to another class action that had been previously filed and is still working its way through the courts. The case is docketed as Georgianna Gordon v. Rite Aid Corp.

The Company urges that, under federal law, the action filed first takes precedence over this action, which was recently filed in the U.S. Southern District of New York. The earlier action, entitled Indergit v. Rite Aid Corp. and Rite Aid of New York Inc. was filed some ten months before this current action.

As the Indergit action was filed before this case, and as there is considerable identity of the issues and parties, the Company urges that the Court apply the first-filed ruled. This seems somewhat self-evident, as the issues presented in this case are being actively litigated in Indergit. If the federal judge does not dismiss the action, the Company will then seek a stay pending resolution of the earlier case.

Ms. Gordon worked as an Assistant Manager and Manager at Rite Aid from July 2007-June 2009. She alleges that she primarily did non-exempt work, such as stocking shelves. She admits that she opened/closed the store and responded to and resolved customer complaints, but denies that she ever hired or scheduled employees, which would clearly be exempt work. She claims she worked between 50-60 hours per week and earned a salary of approximately $800 per week.

She also alleges that she did not exercise independent judgment. This is an odd allegation, especially under the Fair Labor Standards Act, as the “discretion and independent judgment” component of that exemption test has been deleted under the revised regulations of August 2004.

This is not the first case of overtime “flu” to hit this Company. In July 2009, a class of Assistant Managers in Ohio sued Rite Aid on a misclassification theory. To further complicate matters, similar misclassification lawsuits have been lodged against Rite Aid competitors CVS Caremark Corp. and Walgreen Co.

These Assistant Manager cases are extremely tough to defend, because it is difficult to prove that management remains the employees’ “primary duty” even when they are working the cash register, stocking shelves or waiting on customers. I believe, and have advised numerous clients, the best and most prudent thing to do is to treat these folks as non-exempt from the commencement of their employment, build the overtime into their compensation, assuming they have to work 48-50 hours every week and then never worry about overtime lawsuits. Never worry about overtime lawsuits. Sorry—I’m being redundant.