Plaintiff moves to strike Kraft's affirmative defenses in class action over worker wages

Amelia Flood Apr. 18, 2011, 5:20am


The woman who proposes to lead a class of workers at a Granite City Kraft Foods Global plant in a class action over wages is asking the court to strike down the company's affirmative defenses.

Proposed lead plaintiff Joan Jones filed her move to strike the affirmative defenses April 7.
Jones is asking to lead a class of between 400 to 500 class members who worked at Kraft's Granite City Facility.

The suit, filed in January, alleges that workers were not paid for all of the hours that they worked in violation of the Illinois Minimum Wage Act.

The suit seeks damages in the amount of the unpaid wages and other relief.

The class action is still in its early stages and has not been certified to date.

It is set for a case management conference April 27 at 9 a.m.

Kraft filed its answer denying the claims March 14.

It denies the existence of any class and that any of the class's supposed members were denied compensation for the hours they worked.

In that filing, Kraft also offers 15 affirmative defenses.

Those defenses include the company's assertion that Jones fails to state a claim for relief, is barred by the statute of limitations, that Jones waived her right to sue in accepting paychecks without lodging complaints, she lacks the standing to sue and that because Jones is not a current Kraft plant employee, she lacks the standing to lead a class of the plant's workers.

The company also points to diversity without the claims of the proposed class members and argues that a class action is an inferior way of resolving the dispute.

In her April 7 motion to strike the defenses, Jones calls at least one of Kraft's defenses "a backdoor attempt at a motion to dismiss as to the complaint."

She claims the company fails to allege sufficient facts to support its various defenses.
Jones claims that the company's 15th defense of de minimis - a matter so small the court should not concern itself with it – is unfounded.

"Once again, the issue is whether the time spent was required to be paid under Illinois law," Jones' motion reads. "While a big-time big city lawyer may feel that 15 minutes of time, at $20 an hour, is a de minimis amount, when one considers on a five day work week, this constitutes 1.25 of an hour which for 50 work weeks constitutes 62.5 hours which, at $20 an hour, is $1,250 per year, which over a three year statutory period is $3,750. This is not a de minimis amount to the Plaintiffs and the putative class members."

The plaintiff claims that other defenses filed by Kraft don't apply to her case.

Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis presides.

Joseph Phebus represents Jones and the potential class.

Jonathan Garlough represents Kraft.

The case is Madison case number 11-L-082.

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