By Caleb Drickey
May 19, 2022
A Chicago-area chain of liquor stores and a group of workers who say their overtime pay did not include bonuses for working during the pandemic asked an Illinois federal court to grant final approval for a more than $220,000 settlement to Fair Labor Standards Act claims.
In its motion for final approval Wednesday, the workers told the court that Gold Standard Enterprises Inc., which does business as Binny’s Beverage Depot, would pay every penny of overtime it allegedly owed under the FLSA and Illinois Minimum Wage Law.
“The gross settlement fund of $220,617.00 represents a gross recovery of 100% of alleged overtime owed,” the workers said. “This is an excellent result for settlement class members.”
The wage dispute between Binny’s and its workers stems from the company’s decision to provide temporary bonuses to workers during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
While those bonuses were applied to standard hours, the workers alleged in their June 2021 complaint, the company violated the FLSA and the IMWL by failing to apply time-and-a-half overtime multipliers to those bonuses.
On Wednesday, the parties told the court that the agreed settlement fully made workers whole for that allegedly underpaid overtime. The deal also represents the full value of liquidated damages the workers might have been entitled to under the FLSA and treble damages under the IMWL.
The class asked the court to award attorney fees equal to one-third of the settlement pot plus $420 in costs, amounting to just under $74,000, to class counsel.
“Based upon the negotiated fee agreement in this case, the normal rate of compensation in similar cases, the risk class counsel undertook engaging in this litigation, and the excellent result achieved for members, class counsel is entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees of one third of the fund,” the workers said.
The class further told the court that the absence of a generalized waiver of future claims against Binny’s, only a release of FLSA and IMWL wage claims, was a further mark in favor of a hefty fee award.
The class also asked for permission to reserve $10,000 to a claims administrator and a $7,500 incentive award to named plaintiff Victor Sanchez.
Sanchez faced retaliation and blackballing from other retail jobs as a result of serving as the face of a successful wage lawsuit, the class said.
“While perhaps retaliation is or should be illegal, it’s hard to prove, and many employers will think twice about hiring a low-wage worker who cost a prior employer over $200,000 because they stood up for the rights of hundreds of co-workers,” the workers said.
If the court approves the requested fee and incentive awards, the class said the remaining sum of roughly $129,000 would be proportionally divided among a class of 777 current and former employees, minus one worker who opted out of the class, according to the number of overtime hours worked while the pandemic bonus policy was in effect.
John Kunze, counsel for the workers, expressed his satisfaction with the terms of the deal.
“This is a good settlement that puts money in people’s pockets that need it the most,” Kunze said.
Representatives of the parties did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The workers are represented by David Fish and John Kunze of Fish Potter Bolanos PC.
Binny’s is represented by Joshua Holleb, Brain Schwartz and Michael Paull of Klein Paull Holleb & Jacobs Ltd.
The case is Sanchez v. Gold Standard Enterprises Inc., case number 1:21-cv-03349, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.