Yankee Candle settles $1.2M class action lawsuit over time clock rounding

Yankee Candle in Deerfield.

Yankee Candle in Deerfield. FILE PHOTO

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 03-06-2024 12:07 PM

SPRINGFIELD — More than 2,400 current and former Yankee Candle employees are eligible to split $1.2 million from a class action lawsuit brought forward by an employee alleging the company failed to pay workers for “thousands of hours of work” due to its time rounding policy when workers clocked in for their shifts.

A joint settlement was approved on Feb. 27 in Hampden County Superior Court between Yankee Candle and Jassen Laplant, who brought the case on behalf of other employees alleging violation of the Massachusetts Wage Act, according to court documents.

The case revolved around Laplant’s claim that a portion of thousands of employees’ work went unpaid, as the company rounded workers’ time entries to the nearest 15 minute mark, but prohibited them from clocking in more than seven minutes before the start of their shift, while also penalizing them if they clocked in after the start of their shift.

“For example, an employee who clocked in to work between 6:53 a.m. and 6:59 a.m. would have their clock-in time rounded to 7:00 a.m., thus resulting in a time clock rounding benefit to the employer,” attorney Raymond Dinsmore, who represented Laplant and the employee class, explained in the initial complaint. “However, an employee who clocked in at 6:52 a.m. would have their time clock entry rounded down to 6:45 a.m., resulting an a rounding gain for the employee.”

“These policies ensured that the vast majority of rounded time clock entries benefited Yankee,” he wrote.

The suit was initially filed in March 2023, when Dinsmore said the company was “able to derive a significant amount of free labor from its employees.”

Dinsmore declined to comment on the settlement this week.

In the settlement’s stipulations, Yankee Candle “denies all of the allegations made by plaintiff in the litigation.” An email sent to the attorney representing Yankee Candle on Tuesday was not returned.

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Laplant also was awarded a $10,000 bonus as a service award for his work in bringing the case forward.

Massachusetts wage laws allows employers to round clock-in and clock-out times to the nearest “five minutes, one-tenth, or quarter of an hour provided that this manner of computing working time averages out over a reasonable period of time so that an employee is fully compensated for all the time he or she actually worked,” according to the Department of Labor Standards.

Dinsmore argued Yankee Candle’s “practice ensured that the working times of plaintiff and the other Class Members did not ‘average out over a reasonable period of time so that [the employees] are compensated for all the time [they] worked.’”

As part of the settlement, 2,465 non-exempt employees who worked for Yankee Candle in Massachusetts from Nov. 29, 2019 through April 30, 2023 are eligible for a cut of approximately $800,000, as $400,000 of the $1.2 million agreement is set aside for attorney’s fees. Payments, which will be paid within 60 days after all rights to appeal or review are exhausted, will be based on a “pro rata basis based upon the number of weeks worked during the class period.”