A beer merchandiser for Beer Capitol Distributing Inc. filed a federal class action lawsuit against the Sussex company, alleging that the firm failed to make required overtime payments to its workers.
Matthew Tobin filed the class action lawsuit in the U.S. Eastern Wisconsin District Court on behalf of himself and about 60 of his co-workers.
Beer Capital Distributing is the largest beer distributor in Wisconsin and distributes nearly 400 brands of beer in Southeastern Wisconsin and employs more than 350 employees.
The lawsuit alleges that shortly after Beer Capitol Distributing acquired another distributor, Miller Brands-Milwaukee LLC, in 2008, the company began paying their merchandisers a salary rather than on an hourly basis. With this change, the company stopped paying their merchandisers overtime compensation, according to the complaint.
“What is important to understand is just because an employee is paid on a salary basis does not mean that he/she is not entitled to overtime compensation,” said Larry Johnson of Cross Law Firm in Milwaukee, who is Tobin’s attorney.
Johnson said, “This is a costly misstep for many employers who try to control their labor costs - state and federal wage and hour laws simply do not allow an employer to cut this corner.”
Tobin has worked as a merchandiser since March 2004 and was originally employed with Miller Brands-Milwaukee, Johnson said.
As a merchandiser, Tobin travels to various retail locations to stock shelves, hang signage, place sales materials, assemble displays and rotate product to ensure freshness. “Although we cannot confirm the amount of the lost wages and liquidated damages until records are obtained later in the litigation process, we estimate the total liability could exceed $700,000,” Johnson said.
Beer Capitol Distributing merged with Beer Capitol Distributing Lake Country LLC (formerly W.O.W. Distributing Co., Inc.) in September 2010.
The defendants in the case include Beer Capitol executives Aldo Madrigrano, Ronald Fowler and Michael Merriman.
The Waukesha County Business Alliance named Beer Capitol Distributing its 2011 Business of the Year.