Fast-food workers sue OP-based firm, alleging misdeeds by managers, unpaid hours

Fast-food workers for Overland Park-based KBP Foods say they weren’t paid for all the hours they worked and have sued in federal court.
Fast-food workers for Overland Park-based KBP Foods say they weren’t paid for all the hours they worked and have sued in federal court. AP file photo

Six fast-food workers have sued Overland Park-based KBP Foods, claiming they’ve been required to work without pay because of technology problems, managers’ misdeeds and company policies.

The workers’ lawsuit seeks class-action status to represent other cooks, cashiers and shift managers similarly working and underpaid at hundreds of KFC fast-food restaurants that the company operates.

KBP Foods operates 581 restaurants in 23 states and has grown rapidly in part by acquiring groups of restaurants including KFC and Taco Bell brands.

Company spokeswoman Michelle Doebele said in an email that KBP Foods follows all state and federal labor laws and that its policies ensure workers are paid for all hours worked.

“We take allegations like this very seriously and are conducting a thorough internal review,” she said.

Workers have toiled without pay, including overtime hours beyond 40 in a week, in part because “management engaged in a scheme to short employees’ compensable time by routinely deleting time from employees’ timesheets,” the lawsuit said.

Moreover, the lawsuit claims that KBP Foods pays bonuses to restaurant managers “for reducing labor costs” and thus provided an incentive for the alleged shorting of reported hours worked.

The technology problem stems from thumbprint scanners attached to the cash registers. The lawsuit said workers clock in and clock out for their shifts by using this biometric timekeeping system.

“When the system operates properly, an employee’s punch-in information is transmitted to a ‘back of the house’ computer, which records employees’ time,” the suit said.

Workers go unpaid for some hours in part because the timekeeping system “regularly malfunctions,” the suit said. Managers are supposed to manually enter workers’ hours when this happens, but the lawsuit said they don’t because of the bonuses available for cutting labor costs.

According to the suit in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, employees whose shifts start while the restaurant is busy or who try to clock in after a break also experience problems. The scanners relay the clock-in information to the “back of the house” computer only when a register is open and active. When the restaurant’s active registers are busy, workers have to log in on an inactive register.

The suit said this means the manager would have to manually record the time later. But, the lawsuit claims, the managers fail to do so accurately in part because of the bonuses for holding down labor costs.

Another problem arises at the end of the day. The lawsuit claims reported hours also come up short of actual work when registers have been turned off and become inactive while employees continue their work to “close” the restaurant. The system requires them to clock out before the registers are closed even though their work continues after that clock-out time, the suit said.

KBP Foods’ employees brought the legal action under the Fair Labor Standards Act and Missouri’s wage and hours laws.

The Kansas City-based Heartland Center for Jobs & Freedom Inc. helped bring the lawsuit for the KBP Foods employees. The non-profit center offers free legal advice to low-wage workers on evictions, consumer issues and employment issues. It also helps low-wage workers find legal representation and partners with them to organize for higher wages and union rights.