According to court documents, Gardner was employed by DineEquity for 22 years (initially by its predecessor, International House of Pankcakes and later, IHOP), first as a paralegal and later as Manager, Franchise Compliance. Because her job title was managerial, she was classified as exempt from overtime pay. But Gardner says her position was managerial in title only and her job duties actually remained the same as those of a paralegal. Gardner says she was never a supervisor, nor did she have any authority to hire, fire or set policy for DineEquity.
“The title of Manager and the classification of that title as an exempt position were purely for the pretext of denying Gardner her wage and hour protections, including overtime pay and rest breaks,” the lawsuit alleges.
Exemption from overtime pay requires that an employee have a certain amount of managerial authority in their position, not just that they have a managerial title. If an employee has a managerial title but still performs the work of an hourly employee for the majority of their work time, that employee is likely eligible for overtime pay. Among managerial tasks the courts take into consideration are authority over other employees, supervisory duties, setting policy or discretion in one’s job.
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The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of employees who were wrongfully classified as exempt from overtime pay. In her lawsuit Gardner alleges DineEquity “deliberately or negligently misclassified” employees as exempt to avoid paying overtime or providing other job protections. Gardner further seeks damages for allowing a “racially charged” environment and for failing to maintain and keep payroll records showing daily hours worked and wages paid to employees. Finally, Gardner alleges she was not provided proper rest periods.
The lawsuit is Gardner v. DineEquity Inc., et al. case number BC610815, in Superior Court for the State of California, County of Los Angeles, Central District.