Covelli decries another lawsuit


By Kalea Hall

khall@vindy.com

WARREN

Covelli Enterprises Inc. of Warren is dismissing as “frivolous” a Virginia woman’s lawsuit that claims the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Chelsea Romano, who worked as an assistant manager for Panera Bread from September 2014 through August 2016 in Johnstown, Pa., said in the lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court that despite having a managerial title she did not perform managerial duties.

“Assistant managers are not true managers and do not exercise management authority,” she claims in the lawsuit. “Instead, among other things, these purported managers take customer orders, serve customers, cook food, work with the cash register, check inventory, clean the store, and perform other non-managerial duties.”

The assistant managers were exempt from federal overtime compensation.

“The accusations in the complaint are 100 percent false,” said Allen Ryan, Covelli spokesman. “These are salaried employees, who our company is vigilant about paying fairly and in compliance with all wage and hour laws.”

Covelli owns and operates more than 300 Panera locations in Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and South Carolina, according to its website.

Ryan explained the duties of assistant managers is to “manage and supervise the operation of the restaurant and the employees.”

“All employees who are entitled to overtime pay are paid by the company in accordance with the law,” he said. “Unfortunately, these types of frivolous lawsuits involving salaried managers have become too common place in the service industry.”

Romano seeks wages from unpaid overtime she said she regularly worked. She also seeks for the lawsuit to be certified as a collective action.

“We thank our employees for their hard work and dedication and look forward to seeing this case dismissed,” Ryan said.

In January, Erin Kis of Medina filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, claiming she regularly worked more than 40 hours as an assistant manager at a Panera Bread in Wadsworth as required by Covelli Enterprises, yet she received pay for only 40 hours per week.

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