Filed last week in federal court, the lawsuit alleges Target’s official reason for firing former employee Jason Kellner in September was because he worked off the clock against company policy. However, Kellner alleges in the lawsuit that Target’s scheduling practices forced him to work off the clock and during his scheduled meal breaks, a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Kellner alleges that Target actually fired him for complaining about the situation.
The lawsuit demands the reinstatement of Kellner’s job, payment of lost wages and legal fees and for any further relief as deemed appropriate by the courts.
“We think he was an exemplary employee,” said Ralph Strawn, attorney for Kellner. “We hope we’ll be able to go forward and prepare for court and help Jason get his job back.”
In a Tuesday email to The Star, Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder said the company would not comment specifically about the lawsuit.
“Target is committed to following all state and federal laws,” Snyder said. “However, as this is pending litigation, we don’t have any further information to share at this time.”
Kellner, who worked for eight years with Target, for the last few years had the job description of team leader – a position that required him to perform several managerial duties. However, unlike appointed managers at the store, Kellner was paid an hourly wage and not a salary.
Whenever a salaried manager was not at the store, Kellner was the sole person in charge of the business and its employees. And since Target does not provide overtime hours, Kellner routinely had to work off the clock to perform certain managerial duties, the lawsuit states.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employees are entitled to a certain amount of uninterrupted breaks for meals.
The lawsuit alleges that on Thursdays and Fridays when Kellner was scheduled to work from 2:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., the salaried manager on duty would usually leave around 5 p.m., leaving Kellner alone and unable to take an uninterrupted meal break. Kellner was also allegedly unable to take uninterrupted meal breaks on the weekends because the salaried manager would open the store and leave before Kellner could take his scheduled break or the salaried manager would not arrive until after Kellner’s scheduled break.
“In order to get a 30-minute meal period, it was important for a salaried manager to be there,” Strawn said. “The gist of the problem was that he was there in the evening when no other salaried manager was there.”
Common problems Kellner alleges he had to deal with during his lunch break included helping a customer with a complaint, helping a customer return an item for a cash refund or dealing with a shoplifting incident.
The lawsuit states Kellner repeatedly asked to have his time card changed to reflect the extra time he worked, however, a person in the human resources department always told him Target could not pay overtime and for him to try and take another meal period later in his shift.
Also, shortly before Kellner was fired, he and other senior team leaders complained during meetings with management that the unavailability of salaried managers to cover for them during their meal periods was forcing them to work through their meal breaks. The lawsuit alleges that management’s response to the complaints was, “our schedule is none of your concern.”
A couple of weeks later, Kellner was fired, with Target management claiming it had video surveillance footage of him working after he had clocked out for his meal period. Kellner was fired even though he had written a correction later on his timecard, the lawsuit states.
Contact staff writer Patrick McCreless at 256-235-3561.