Employment Law Reporter - July 2013: The Danger of Understaffing


Poor customer service, reduced productivity, low morale; these are some of the problems commonly associated with understaffing. But one of the worst problems frequently goes unnoticed by employers until it is too late to correct and the employer is faced with a costly lawsuit. The recent California Court of Appeal case of Heyen v. Safeway, Inc. serves to illustrate this point.

Linda Heyen worked as an assistant store manager for Safeway. Safeway required managers to make the “operating ratio” or “O.R.”, which were the number of labor hours budgeted to a Safeway store based on the store’s sales. Managers would be disciplined for missing O.R. in any week. According to Heyen, managers could not run the store and maintain O.R. unless the manager and assistant manager performed the same jobs as hourly employees. This meant that Heyen spent time stocking shelves, cleaning, bookkeeping, working the cash register, etc. Heyen worked long hours performing these and other tasks. Indeed, Heyen believed that she worked so many hours that she actually made less money on an hourly basis than she did when she was an hourly employee.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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