Collinsville's Connie Gibbs keeps busy at courthouse

Steve Gonzalez Sep. 8, 2004, 2:13am

She's a plaintiff. She's a plaintiff. She's a defendant.

Suffice to say that when Collinsville's Connie Gibbs arrives at the Madison County Courthouse these days, she doesn't have to ask for directions.

Gibbs is embroiled in major lawsuits against two of her former employers, one as the named plaintiff in a class action, all while battling her now former landlord over charges she hasn't paid rent on her Collinsville apartment since March.

Last Thursday, Madison County Circuit Court Associate Judge Clarence Harrison ruled that Gibbs must vacate her apartment by September 15 and pay landlord Tina Kittstein of Lebanon the $2,340 she owes in back rent.

But Gibbs has bigger fish to fry.

Unfair firing

In a suit first filed on April 6 in Madison County Circuit Court against New Jersey-based Toys-R-Us, Gibbs claims the company fired her after she got sick in order to avoid paying her pension.

According to Gibbs' complaint, she worked at the Toys-R-Us store in Fairview Heights for almost five years before an illness forced her to take "authorized sick leave time."

The complaint says Toys-R-Us used Gibbs' illness as a pretext to fire her so the company wouldn't have to pay her pension, which would have vested upon her five-year anniversary as an employee.

The suit also accuses Toys-R-Us of defaming Gibbs by suggesting to her next employer that she was "engaging in illegal conduct at the store."

Gibbs thinks her former managers at Toys-R-Us got her fired from her next job, at Jack-in-the-Box.

Alleges she deserved overtime

According to the complaint in a separate class action lawsuit filed August 27 in Madison County Circuit Court, when Gibbs started work at Jack-in-the Box's restaurant in Glen Carbon she was given the title of 'manager trainee.'

But Gibbs claims that while she did 'routinely work in excess of 40 hours per week,' she was not given 'management duties' commensurate with her title at the fast food restaurant.

Managers typically work on straight salary and don't receive overtime pay.

Gibbs is accusing Jack in the Box of classifying her as a manager solely as a means of not paying her overtime.

Reached by phone at her home, Gibbs told The Record that her attorney, Thomas Maag of the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River, already had a case pending against Jack-in-the-Box when they met and added her as a named plaintiff.

She declined to comment further.

A defense motion to move Gibbs' case against Toys-R-Us to federal court failed last month. The case was reinstated in Madison County on August 25.

Toys-R-Us has $13 billion in annual sales and some 1,500 stores worldwide.

Jack-in-the-Box has 2,000 restaurants in 17 states, 11 of which are in Metro East.

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