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A challenge by a Lane Bryant employee on how the clothing retailer calculated her overtime was knocked down by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Monday. In fact, the method used by Lane Bryant to determine Kelli K. Goodrow’s overtime pay resulted in her earning more money than if the company had done the calculations according to state and federal regulations, the SJC said. In the case of Kelli K. Goodrow v. Lane Bryant Inc., SJC-08189, SJC-08241, the plaintiff, a “co-manager,” argued under the state’s minimum fair wages statute that she was entitled to overtime pay. In July 1995, Superior Court Judge Allan van Gestel agreed; Ms. Goodrow argued that Lane Bryant failed to pay her overtime at the rate of one-and-a-half times her hourly rate for the time she worked more than 40 hours in a week, contrary to G.L. c. 151, Sect. 1A, the state statute which governs payment of overtime compensation to employees. Lane Bryant appealed Judge van Gestel’s decision on the basis that Ms. Goodrow was exempt from the provisions of Sect. 1A because she was not a “bona fide executive” and that the judge’s method of calculating overtime compensation for Ms. Goodrow, a salaried employee, was incorrect. Although Ms. Goodrow’s title was “co-manager,” she did not hold a position of managerial responsibility within the company, the SJC wrote. “Goodrow’s duties and her modest level of compensation do not comport with what is commonly understood as an ‘executive’ position. “The common understanding of the term, which we apply in the absence of any Massachusetts statutory or regulatory definition, is at least as beneficial to the employee as the federal definition,” the SJC concluded. “A manager in name does not a manager make,” wrote Justice Francis X. Spina in the opinion for the SJC. Ms. Goodrow began working at the Greendale Mall in Worcester, Mass., in November 1993, later moved to the company’s store in Auburn where she worked until she resigned in April 1995. Her daily duties included turning on the cash registers at 9:30 a.m., putting cash in the registers and examining the “register mail.” At 10 a.m., the store opened to customers. And for the rest of the day, Ms. Goodrow performed retail sales work, which included waiting on customers, ringing up sales and setting up special promotional sales displays. Ms. Goodrow would typically stay until 6:30 p.m. The SJC found that Judge van Gestel correctly concluded that Ms. Goodrow “was not employed as a bona fide executive at Lane Bryant and thus was not exempt from the overtime provisions” of 151, Sect. 1A. The SJC also found that the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 C.F.R., Sect. 778.114) does not require there be a “clear mutual understanding” of the parties that overtime compensation will be calculated by the “fluctuating” workweek method of calculation contained in Chapter 151. While Lane Bryant calculated Ms. Goodrow’s overtime under the fluctuating workweek method, it used a denominator of 40 hours, rather than the actual number of hours worked in a given week, the SJC wrote. “The regular rate of pay for salaried employees whose hourly work-week varies . . . is calculated by dividing the regular weekly pay by the total number of hours worked in the week,” the justices wrote. Under that scenario, the overtime rate of pay is calculated by multiplying one-half of the regular rate of pay by the number of hours worked beyond 40, known as the fluctuating workweek. “The DOL (Department of Labor) approved Lane Bryant’s use of this method to calculate overtime for co-sales managers. This method is permitted under the DOL Field Operations Handbook, although it is not included in either the federal or Massachusetts’ regulations,” the SJC said. “The trade off, in the view of the DOL is that it affords more money to the employee,” the SJC wrote as it did in the case of Ms. Goodrow.

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