Overview of Unilock Class Action Overtime Lawsuit and Settlement

About the Class

The lawsuit claimed that approximately 300 past and present Unilock plant employees, who were primarily Hispanic and spoke limited English, had been wrongfully denied overtime wages because of Unilock's illegal timekeeping and payroll practices.

Unilock's Alleged Illegal Practices

The lawsuit alleged that from 1999-2005:

  • Plant employees were required to report to their workstations early for a shift "hand-off," but without pay;
  • In order to avoid paying employees additional overtime, Unilock programmed its timekeeping system to limit employee time to scheduled shift time even if they worked more than that;
  • A Unilock manager routinely altered employee timecards by hand so that employees would only get paid for the time on the schedule no matter what time they actually started or stopped working;
  • Employees were automatically docked 30 minutes for lunch, even when they were required to skip or take a shortened lunch break, regardless of what their time records showed; and
  • Unilock is required to (but does not) pay its employees for changing into and out of their uniforms.

Our law firm, on behalf of the Plaintiffs' attorneys argued that Unilock's manipulation of employee time records was illegal because employees are entitled to be paid for shift hand-off, shortened lunch breaks, and donning and doffing uniforms, which Plaintiffs' attorneys argued were protective clothing due to the nature of the work at Unilock. Unilock's attorneys admitted to a policy requiring employees to report early but claimed employees were not following the policy. Unilock also denied that its employees did any work before the beginning of their scheduled shift and that uniforms were not protective clothing and, in any event, the wearing of uniforms was not required. Unilock further claimed that if employees took a short lunch, they were paid for the extra time.

After our lawsuit was filed, Unilock changed its practices and put in place what they call the "Seven Minute Rule." Our complaint was subsequently amended to also challenge Unilock's Post Seven Minute Rule practices. Specifically, the amended complaint claimed that the "Seven Minute Rule," as implemented by Unilock, was an illegal rounding practice because the rounding of time overwhelmingly benefits Unilock - but not employees; essentially there is no balance. The law allows for rounding small increments of time so long as it balances out. The idea is that neither party will be unfairly advantaged. Plaintiffs argued that the problem with Unilock's Post Seven Minute Rule practice was that it appeared that the scale tips overwhelmingly in Unilock's favor. The employees were almost always at the losing end and, although it is only minutes at a time, those minutes add up.

THE SETTLEMENT

In November 2010, a $1.6 million dollar settlement was approved by Kane County Circuit Judge Colwell. The distribution to Class Members broke down as follows:

  • For every shift that an individual Class Member actually worked June 25, 1999 through December 14, 2004 (Pre Seven Minute Rule), the employee received 13 minutes pay at their then applicable overtime rate of one and a half times (1.5x) their rate of pay that they received during that time period.
  • For every shift that an individual Class Member actually worked December 15, 2004 through August 11, 2010 (Post Seven Minute Rule), the employee will receive 7 minutes pay at their then applicable overtime rate of one and a half times (1.5x) their rate of pay that they received during that time period.
  • The smallest distribution to an individual settlement Class Member was $84.28.
  • The largest distribution to an individual settlement Class Member was $12,430.49.
  • The median distribution to the settlement class was $832.43.

Efforts to locate missing Class Members were undertaken for over a year. In January 2012, the distribution of the funds was completed and all unclaimed funds will be distributed to the Red Cross, Prairie State Legal Services, and Employee Rights Advocacy Institute.