From Dayton Daily News
DAYTON — Three employees of Behr Dayton Thermal Products LLC, a manufacturer of climate control products for the automotive industry, filed a class action lawsuit against their employer to recover more than $5 million in unpaid overtime wages and damages for more than 100 other Behr employees.
The employees said Behr violated the Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act when it converted hourly supervisory employees to salaried workers and failed to pay millions of dollars of overtime the supervisors earned.
All of the more than 100 members involved in the lawsuit have worked at Behr as either an area supervisor, maintenance supervisor or production supervisor between Oct. 1 and Jan. 27, 2002.
The plaintiffs are David D. Haas of Xenia, Ohio, employed since 1995 as a maintenance supervisor; Jerry L. Cromer of Dayton, Ohio, who started in 1984 and has worked as an area supervisor; and Fred H. Shock of Mason, Ohio, hired in 1986 and has worked as a production supervisor.
The lawsuit was filed in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court.
Behr Dayton Thermal Products is a foreign limited liability company formed as a joint venture between Troy, Mich.-based Behr America Inc. and DaimlerChrysler. In 2002, Behr America Inc. acquired DaimlerChrysler’s interest in the joint venture.
Originally, the Behr plant at 1600 Webster St. was known as the Chrysler Air Temp plant and was later renamed Chrysler Dayton Thermal Air Products.
In 1998, Daimler-Benz bought Dayton Thermal as part of the larger Daimler-Benz merger with then formed a joint venture with Behr to operate Dayton Thermal, until it sold its interest.
During the time that Chrysler Air Temp operated Dayton Thermal, nonbargaining unit employees, including the plaintiffs, were paid according to a wage band structure, meaning certain supervisors were paid an hourly rate at 1.5 times the rate of nonsupervisors.
Maintenance supervisors, for example, typically were expected to work in excess of 50 hours a week and traditionally were paid overtime after accumulating 40 hours, according to the lawsuit.
Plaintiffs claim in October 2002, Behr illegally eliminated overtime payments to all nonbargaining unit employees, except for certain supervisors, and converted them to salaried employees, which reduced their wages.
The workers are not covered under the contract with Behr and the International Union of Electrical Workers/Communications Workers of America Local 775, said James Phillips, president of IUE-CWA Local 775.
“But if anybody got money taken from them, then they should be paid,” Phillips said.
Representatives from Behr America could not be reached for comment.
Similar lawsuits have proved successful for the plaintiffs.
Last summer, a California jury awarded class members $9.5 million in lost overtime pay and damages.
With headquarters in Troy, Mich., Behr America has an estimated 3,000 employees at facilities in Dayton, Troy and Webberville, Mich.; Charleston, S.C.; and Fort Worth, Texas.
Copyright 2005 Dayton Daily News via ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All Rights Reserved.
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