- Associated Press - Saturday, May 2, 2015

RENO, Nev. (AP) - A federal judge has granted class-action status for a lawsuit that more than two dozen cooks and kitchen workers want to join accusing northern Nevada’s largest chain of sports taverns of misclassifying them as salaried executives to skirt U.S. labor laws requiring overtime pay.

Bully’s Sports Bar & Grill allegedly forced past and present kitchen staff to work up to 60 hours a week routinely without overtime pay for at least the last three years, according to the filing in U.S. District Court in Reno in January.

Bully’s lawyers’ deny the allegations. They said in their initial response in February that the only plaintiff, Ernesto Amador, worked specifically as a kitchen manager before he quit in September and had no legal standing to make claims on behalf of others who worked as assistant managers or cooks.

Since then, former cook Luis Anguiano has joined the suit and 25 others have identified themselves in court filings as potential plaintiffs.

U.S. Magistrate Valerie Cook set a case management conference for Aug. 14 after the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, Charles Jones, and Bully’s lawyer Anthony Hall said during a brief hearing Friday they were optimistic about the prospects for settlement talks.

“We may be able to do this the old-fashioned way and settle this ourselves,” Jones said.

U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben granted conditional approval of the class action and signed an order last week requiring Bully’s to produce by May 8 a list of all those potentially eligible dating to Jan. 16, 2012. By the end of May, the plaintiffs’ lawyers will mail consent forms - in both English and Spanish - to identified cooks, kitchen managers and assistants who will have 90 days to join.

The forms serve as notice “of the existence of a lawsuit seeking recovery of unpaid minimum wages and unpaid overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act.”

The letter explains U.S. law prohibits Bully’s from firing or otherwise retaliating against anyone who seeks compensation, and notes: “Your immigration status does not matter in this case.”

“You are entitled to join the lawsuit even if you are not otherwise legally entitled to work in the United States,” it says.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and penalties from the 21-year-old chain of taverns with limited gambling licenses in Reno and Sparks that allow for up to 15 slot machines. It says Amador and Anguiano were paid annual salaries of $43,000 and $31,000, respectively, but are due back overtime.

The only workers exempt from overtime are “bona fide” executives working in an “administrative or professional capacity or in the capacity of outside salesman,” the suit said.

Bully’s appropriately exempted general managers and assistant general managers because of supervisory responsibilities. But the cooks’ and kitchen managers’ primary duty was not management, the suit said. “These salaried ‘managers’ are not responsible for the day-to-day operations of the sports bars.”

Bully’s said it acted in good faith and believes it complied with the law.

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