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Current and former assistant managers at Home Depot stores are seeking class action status for a lawsuit that claims they were unfairly denied overtime pay and pension benefits by being improperly classified as managers. If approved by a federal judge, the lawsuit would cover more than 500 current and former employees nationwide, lawyers for three workers who have sued said Tuesday. The charges were denied by Atlanta-based Home Depot Inc., the nation’s largest home improvement retailer, in papers filed last week in U.S. District Court in Newark. The company also opposed the certification of any class action suit, denying that plaintiffs have common issues of law or fact. In a statement issued Tuesday, The Home Depot maintained it has “a strong commitment to fair employment practices” and said the allegations were without merit. Worker lawyer Della Bahan said the company purposely misclassified the employees, violating federal and state laws, and forced them to work more than 40 hours a week without overtime. The lawsuit was filed in August. “These men and women have been given the phony title of ‘assistant store manager,’ but in fact have primarily been performing the work of hourly employees and are, therefore, entitled to overtime pay,” she said. The assistant managers also were not eligible for the 4.5 percent matching contribution in the company retirement plan that was given to hourly employees, lawyers for the plaintiffs said. Federal wage and hour regulations, as well as New Jersey state law, say employees are not eligible for overtime pay when their primary duties consist of management of the company or a department, when they regularly direct two or three other employees, when they have the authority to hire or fire, and when their weekly salary is at least $400. “Assistant store managers at Home Depot do not meet any of these criteria,” said another lawyer for the workers, Joseph Fine. “In many instances, the employees’ responsibilities and duties remained the same as before they were given their new titles. Many so-called assistant store managers’ primary responsibilities are still mopping floors, taking out the garbage and stocking shelves — all tasks traditionally assigned to hourly employees.” The workers also cite violations of laws in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin. Home Depot operates more than 1,800 stores in the United States, Canada and Mexico, and has about 300,000 employees. In trading Tuesday, Home Depot shares slipped 11 cents, or 0.3 percent, to close at $42.65 on the New York Stock Exchange — near the high end of its 52-week trading range of $32.34 to 44.30. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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