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Lewis County woman files class-action suit against Stewart’s Shops over pay issues

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A Lewis County woman is the lead plaintiff in a proposed federal class-action lawsuit against Stewart’s Shops Inc. over alleged violations of state and federal wage and hour laws.

Holly Gregory, address not available, filed action on behalf of herself and others similarly situated Thursday in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, against the Saratoga Springs-based convenience store chain, which operates stores throughout the north country.

According to the suit, the company has systematically failed to pay its workforce for all hours worked, allegedly resulting in employees being paid below state and federal minimum wage. It further is claimed that the company has received a special permit from the state Department of Labor to allow for 20-minute paid meal breaks under certain circumstances, but does not provide the breaks or other breaks called for under state law.

Ms. Gregory, who worked at the Stewart’s in West Carthage, claims that among her duties was closing the store at 11:30 p.m., with her scheduled to be off duty by 11:45 p.m. However, she maintains that most nights she ended up working until 12:30 or 1 a.m., additional time for which she was not compensated. She brought the issue up with her manager and assistant manager, but was told repeatedly she would not be paid for the extra time, according to the suit.

She also claims the company has a policy requiring employees to show up early for their shifts to discuss work tasks so the transition between shifts is smooth. Likewise, employees are expected to stay after their shifts to assist in the transition. Ms. Gregory contends that on average, she worked an additional 15 minutes per shift without being paid to help with the shift changes. The stores do not use a time clock or punch card and employees are paid based on the hours they are scheduled to work “and are discouraged from making changes to the schedule to reflect time actually worked,” the suit states.

Ms. Gregory claims that the alleged hour and wage violations adversely affect about 4,500 employees throughout 330 convenience stores in New York and Vermont. The suit, filed by Attorney Ryan M. Finn, Latham, seeks class-action status for all Stewart’s employees in similar circumstances to Ms. Gregory, who is currently the sole named plaintiff, as well as penalties and unspecified monetary damages for any violations that are proven. It also seeks, among other things, an order appointing Mr. Finn’s firm, Hacker Murphy LLP, as lead counsel in the action.

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