Officials of Publix did not respond to requests for comment.
The company has 1,358 stores, mostly in the Southeast, as well as 10 distribution centers and 10 manufacturing or bakery centers, including one in Atlanta and one in Dacula. The company has roughly 250,000 employees.
Among the plaintiffs is Jessica Schafer of Cumming, who has worked for Publix since 2005. A second Georgia plaintiff is Caitlin Throckmorton of Douglasville, who worked for the chain in 2022 and 2023.
The suit was originally filed in October with just a few plaintiffs, all assistant managers. It was refiled last week after at least 18 other employees, including department managers, asked to join the suit, attorneys said.
While having the title of manager, those employees are all paid by the hour, said attorneys for the plaintiffs.
Lawyers said in a statement that the practice of requiring unpaid work is a violation of the 85-year-old federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
“It’s unacceptable to force hourly workers to work outside of their shifts and to not pay workers for their time,” said the statement by attorneys for Morgan & Morgan and the Shavitz Law Group.
The attorneys said they estimate that Publix owes the employees, “tens of millions, if not more.”
However, that kind of demand is common in the American workplace, the lawyers said, now that mobile phones make most people accessible at all hours, whether they are at work or not. They cite a study by the Economic Policy Institute estimating that the nation’s workers each year are owed up to $50 billion in unpaid wages for work.
“Companies expect employees to be in constant communication but fail to track this time worked,” the lawyers’ statement said.
The lawsuit alleges that the practice took place in a number of states, including Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
Publix employees are not unionized. Most grocery and large retail chain employees are not members of any union, although full-time Kroger employees are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers.