Archive for Saturday, September 23, 2006

Lowe’s, plaintiffs reach tentative settlement in class-action lawsuit

Employees claimed computerized system mishandled pay

September 23, 2006

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— Lowe's Home Centers has agreed to settle a long-running class action lawsuit claiming the company underpaid employees.

In court documents filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Kansas, the Mooresville, N.C.-based company and plaintiffs in the case said they had reached a settlement. But before filing the agreement, they wanted a judge to allow them to keep the details secret for now.

Attorneys said requiring the details to become public knowledge could spawn copycat lawsuits and ultimately reduce the payments made to plaintiffs. Plaintiff attorneys have estimated that the case could affect up to 75,000 current and former employees of the nation's second-largest home-improvement chain.

"Because there are nationwide class interests at stake here, such suits could be filed in any number of jurisdictions, further complicating already complex litigation and needlessly wasting both judicial and litigant resources," they wrote.

Also, Lowe's said releasing the settlement terms could undermine attempts to settle two similar cases in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

They said terms of the deal could be released once the period for potential class members to join the settlement had ended. They said the settlement would also end similar cases filed in New York and Indiana.

A spokeswoman for Lowe's said the company couldn't comment on litigation. An attorney for the plaintiffs didn't immediately return a phone call for comment.

The case was filed in October 2002 by employees at a Lowe's store in the Kansas City suburb of Shawnee, Kan. The plaintiffs claimed that the company, which paid workers a set weekly salary even if they didn't work a full 40 hours, prorated employee's paychecks on their first and last weeks of employment and that the company's computerized payroll system underpaid employees who had overtime.

Lowe's has denied the claims.

U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia certified the suit as a class action in September 2005.

Shares of Lowe's Cos. lost 4 cents to close at $28.33 in trading Friday on the New York Stock Exchange, where they have traded in a 52-week range of $26.15 to $34.85.

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