A California gas station cashier filed a proposed class action against his employer claiming the company failed to provide extra pay when he had to skip meal and rest breaks while lacking co-worker relief, among other things.
James Howe said Western Refining Retail, which owns a chain of gas stations across California, failed to provide extra compensation owed to him under the state's labor laws. He's seeking damages and to recoup lost wages, according to the complaint. The case was removed to federal court Thursday but was first filed in California Superior Court in October. In the motion to remove the case, Western Refining denied Howe was entitled to any compensation.
Howe's complaint said the company "willfully failed to pay all earned wages in a timely manner. Nor have Defendants paid to Plaintiff and class members, upon or after termination of their employment, all compensation due.'' As an example, Howe said he had yet to receive his final paycheck.
Howe, who worked at one of Western's gas stations from December 2019 to October 2020, said he was required to count money in the cashier drawer, cigarettes and lottery tickets before clocking in, resulting in unpaid wages. He was also required to clock out at the end of his shift but that he would often spend 30 minutes cleaning the store, waiting for the next employee to arrive or helping a customer.
Howe claims that he was also not paid for the days he showed up to work but was told he was not needed, or that he was needed at a later time. Howe said he was also frequently not able to take a 10-minute rest break after a four-hour shift. When this occurred, he said he was not paid an extra hour for days he was not able to take meal or rest breaks, as required by California law.
"Plaintiff was not able to take rest or meal breaks on shifts when he was working alone, as there was nobody to cover for him while he did so," the complaint said. "Even if there was another employee to cover his duties, rest and meal breaks were still nearly always interrupted due to needs from customers or vendors."
Howe also accused the gas station chain of providing incorrect pay stubs to workers that did not accurately record the number of hours employees worked at their correct pay rate. Howe said employees also were expected to conduct work for the gas station on their personal cell phones, such as calling vendors for ice and propane refills, which they were not reimbursed for.
Howe is looking to represent a class of all employees who worked for the chain for the past four years to the date the suit was filed in state court. In its motion to remove the case to federal court, Western Refining estimates this encompasses about 7,410 people in the proposed class.