Settlement possible in Price Chopper suit

The Eastern Avenue Price Chopper Supermarket in Schenectady on Nov. 30, 2016.PHOTOGRAPHER: PETER R. BARBERThe Eastern Avenue Price Chopper Supermarket in Schenectady on Nov. 30, 2016.PHOTOGRAPHER: PETER R. BARBER

By Stephen Williams

The Schenectady-based Price Chopper supermarket chain is in talks that could settle a Massachusetts federal lawsuit over employee classifications and overtime pay, according to new federal court filings.

Attorneys for both the supermarket chain and the plaintiffs filed a notice with U.S. Magistrate Judge Katherine A. Robertson in Springfield on Friday, saying progress was made in a mediation session earlier that week.

“The parties did not reach a settlement on Dec. 12, 2016, however, substantial progress was made, and the mediator is continuing to talk with both plaintiffs and defendants,” wrote attorneys William J. Anthony, of Albany, for Price Chopper, and Justin M. Swartz, of New York City, for Shelly Davine and other plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit.

At the attorneys’ request, the judge postponed a status hearing until Jan. 9, in hope the parties could reach a settlement by then.

The lawsuit, filed in 2014, alleges Price Chopper, in an attempt to reduce labor costs, unlawfully classified its department managers as “team leaders” — a position the company claimed was exempt from federal overtime protections. Davine said she and other team leaders were paid the same hourly wage each week but were regularly required to work more than 45 hours a week — and often 50 hours a week — alongside overtime-eligible employees who did the same work.

The Golub Corp.-owned chain operates approximately 130 stores, most of them in New York but also in several other Northeastern states, including Massachusetts.

Davine lives in North Adams, Massachusetts, and worked as a team leader at stores in North Adams, Lenox and Lee from 1983 until June 2014, according to her initial complaint. The suit alleges that at each of the stores, she was subject to the same overtime exemptions, along with other team leaders in the bakery, deli, meat, seafood, grocery, front-end and produce departments. Several other Price Chopper workers joined in the lawsuit as class-action plaintiffs.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at  395-3086, swilliams@dailygazette.net or @gazettesteve on Twitter.