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Family Video Hit with Class Action Suit

These truly are dark days for the traditional video rental store. Family Video, which is the largest remaining privately-held video chain in the nation, has been slapped by a class-action lawsuit alleging that the chain forced thousands of employees to work uncompensated hours.

The suit claims that Family Video violated the Fair Labor Standards Act as it attempted to minimize its labor costs during the recent recession. Darvette Smith, a former employee and the instigator of the suit, claims that he was not fairly compensated for both standard and overtime hours he worked between November 2008 and January 2011. The damages and compensation being sought by the suit are not currently known.

Matthew George, an attorney with the firm that filed the suit, offered the following on the class-action:

“The law requires that employees be paid for all the work they do. Unpaid work each day adds up quickly and can make a big difference in employees’ paychecks, particularly in these tough economic times . . . We get quite a few complaints that this [occurs] in this economy . . . Obviously, employers are trying to cut down on labor expenses, which sometimes can result in these types of practices.”

It will be interesting to see how this suit plays out, especially if Family Video is found guilty of stiffing its employees to save money during rough times. Visit the comments and leave your take on this latest legal action against a video renter.

(via Home Media Magazine)

34 Responses to “Family Video Hit with Class Action Suit”

  1. Visitor [Join Now]
    Vernon Dent [visitor]

    The defense is going to claim that their employees “volunteered” the extra hours to help the company going during “rough times”. ;)

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      Former [visitor]

      It will not fly. Hundreds of people did not just offer their free help. Ecspecially since it is a rough time and everyone needs the money. People are looking for full time work and over time they are not handing out free work.

  2. Visitor [Join Now]
    tinybrat [visitor]

    Doesn’t matter if they argue that or not, it won’t stick. This will be settled before it goes to court anyway. They don’t want a million dollar legal fee hanging over them, and lose the case on top of it.

    Blockbuster should have thought of having ‘volunteer’ employees, maybe they could pay their other bills then!

    • Member [Join Now]

      Agreed. The laws are written clearly that it’s illegal to “volunteer” and equally illegal for a company to allow it. Those too young to know will remember days when employers would

      a- offer incentives other than pay to work off the clock such as free product, promotions etc..
      b- force employees to work off the clock if they can find any flaw in what you did. Otherwise known as the “if you did it right the first time you wouldn’t be here now” excuse.

      • Member [Join Now]

        Oh come on, people are voting down the fact that we have labor laws. If that doesn’t prove that this board is being attacked by trolls I don’t know what does.

  3. Member [Join Now]
    ChadCronin [chadcronin]

    I got hired @ one once. They said there wasn’t any breaks unless I taking money to the bank, as if that counts

  4. Visitor [Join Now]
    Chris Enloe [visitor]

    Sounds like Walmart.

    • Member [Join Now]

      I’ve been told that Target is just as bad. I had an interview and found out I’d have to sign a legal waiver to give up my lunch breaks. In my state lunch breaks aren’t actually a law however so it’s no big deal (NC has no real labor laws). I took a better job elsewhere however.

      Wal-Mart doesn’t give breaks except to cashiers who seem to get them like clockwork. They do make sure you at least get lunches and will pay you for whatever you work. You may get disciplined later for going over your schedule but you will get paid.

  5. Visitor [Join Now]
    JK [visitor]

    As a former employee at Family Video and Hollywood, I can say that Family video is run ack basswards. My 6 months with them was the worst of any time with anyone I was employed with. The have many stone age practices that waste company time, which is at a premium due to the low number of labor hours they budget for staffing. It was also commonplace to hire and fire at the stores I worked at. The labor force was a revolving door, with termination resulting whenever an employee was up for a merit raise. Personally, I was terminated after I they learned I had an interview for another job (I was in fact working at FV while I was in college, so go figure I would want to move on from retail, right?) The reason I was given was being late for a shift months prior. Another female employee was let go for talking on the phone too much (she was responsible for making the daily and sometimes twice daily calls for non-returned movies.)

    Among other strange practices at Family Video: the practice of receiving new rental movies, as they come shipped in retail packaging. Employees were expected to remove the shrink wrap, remove the disc, print out bar codes for the FV security box, handwrite (with a sharpie) on the inner portion of the disc the same bar code, place the bar codes on security packaging (multiple stickers), place a color coded sticker on the same packaging, lock the security packaging, re-shrink wrap the original DVD box, place multiple stickers on that box… sounds great, considering you may get 50-100 copies of one title alone. Compared to Hollywood who had their shipments come in prepackaged. (Prior to Hollywood doing this, it still wasn’t as time consuming.)

    Make phone calls for movies overdue. Not just by 5 or 10 days, but also movies that were simply 1 day late. In a high volume store such as mine, doing over 2000 rentals per day, this would consume one employee’s time from opening to close (over multiple shifts.) The same would be done via printable reports. If you did not skip the marginal days (1-3) that movies were “missing” you would easily be buried searching the store for that copy of the movie mind you that 1. any movie that was “late” and tried to be rented out to another customer could have the late fees instantly voided by a prompt in the system (this movie is X days late, was it found on the shelf?) or 2. a repeat customer would dispute the late charge, in which you would look for the movie, and find it, voiding charges. Both examples easily abolish the 2-3 hours wasted on this report, yet more company time misused.

    Sounds petty, but anyone who has worked in a video store knows that nights can become hectic with never ending lines at the counter. You also have to find time to scan returns, organize them and return them to shelf for re-rental. Throw in answering phones, and a crew of 2-3 people are slammed. I can recall many nights where we were in “trouble” for staying till 130 or 2am, when the store closed at 12 and you were budgeted to leave at 1230, which was impossible. Managers were on salary, easily working 60 hours per week. Part time employees would have hours cut the next week due to going “over budget”. Another famous practice were scheduling 3-4 hour shifts (waste of time) and “on-call” shifts (yes you read that correctly) where you were responsible to be available by phone between certain hours of the day, to be called in to work “if needed.” Again, I witnessed several employees fired for not being available “on call” when there was no compensation given for waiting by your phone! I can also atest to the person talking about taking breaks, as shifts were scheduled just shy of legally requiring a break, per labor laws.

    Wow and I can still continue with the strangeness. We were responsible for mowing the grass on our property! Simple maintenance functions were all done in-house, including sweeping (by hand with a broom and dustpan) the ENTIRE parking lot! (Not just the sidewalk!)

    In addition, Family Video owns the property their stores are built on, owns the company that builds their stores and owns the company that supplies everything within the store, including shelving, etc. Our store did not have separate male and female restrooms that were required by law either. Well, they did, but one of them was being used for storage because we had no office or storage room planned in the design of the store. They did, however, implement a special room for adult movies and conceded that their name was “Family” Video because they were “family owned”. Right…

    This company is so pathetically cheap, mismanaged and deserves to go under. I know all the reasons why other brick and mortars went the way of the dodo, and it’s definitely unfair that this piece of garbage company continues to operate as it does.

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      Rhonda [visitor]

      I can’t tell you how dead on you are! I was an assistant manager there and we had to organize events that would drive customers into our store such as car washes, bake sales, trivia nights, etc. There was absolutely no extra pay for any of these and we were the ones who had to go to the local school, talk to the girlscout leaders and so on. They overload their employees and make them feel horrible because there simply wasn’t enough time in the day. They deserve what’s coming to them.

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      Jack Skellington [visitor]

      You so clearly exaggerate what goes on there. Calls do not comsume someone from open to close. LOL…Blockbuster gets their movies the same way Fam Vid does and they have to do the same thing because I have worked there as well. Staying till 1:30 or 2am – man you clearly are not adapt at doing your job and maybe thats why they fired you haha.

  6. Member [Join Now]

    i knew people who worked at family video.. They were FIRED cause the sales wasnt good enough… they said they didnt rent out enough movies.. How can you rent out movies when their is noone in the store LOL

    they sold off half the building to little ceaser pizza coming in april 2010 LOL

  7. Visitor [Join Now]
    SWL [visitor]

    JK, that is amazing that a POS company like that can stay in business and get away with abuses like that. Better watch out, you might get call to the suit as a witness to what Btards this company is. Must be a reason why they are not in CA. You might have a lot to say negative about CA but we do have good labor laws.

  8. Visitor [Join Now]
    JK [visitor]

    I also forgot to mention that we had to try and repossess movies from customers. After 30 or 60 days (can’t remember specifically) a list of customers was generated. Anywhere from 2-4 times per month (either weekly or bi-weekly) two employees hopped into their own vehicle (not a company car) and drove around town for several hours, knocking on doors and asking for the movies and/or money in exchange of the movie.

    Ridiculous right? It gets worse. As you can imagine, the persons that typically “steal” movies and video games, aren’t in the best parts of town. There are many times we were subjected to driving through rough areas, knocking on houses that were now abandoned or evicted, etc. One such trip with a manager lead us to project housing to collect an Xbox. He called an audible and said “no way in h*** I’m going in there.”

    Compensation for this grueling task: nothing other than your hourly pay. No extra pay for using your own fuel, your own car, and no bonus if you in fact retrieved any movies!

    Come to think of it, the only bonus ever paid out by this company, was a $1 for selling previously viewed movies or $1 for selling the half price discount cards. However, they not only kept track of your sales for bonus reasons, but you were deemed under-performing if you didn’t sell a specific goal each week. Sliding scale in relation to hours worked? None. Everyone had the same expectation.

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      ab [visitor]

      jk- I too worked there and didn’t leave on not good turns but I will say you are grossly mistating some things.
      first commisions were paid on everything from rent 3’s half price, bundles and movie sales. bonuses were given each year but they are for full time and management.
      home visits(where items were picked up from customers) were a a management task that they can choose to delegate. home visits are done before items are 25 days past due after such time items are considered stolen. you are paid for home doing visits.
      if your store had to do so many calls it’s because you were at a higher rate of not getting items back. Most stores only have to call after 10 days since the automated does it before that.
      managers do have a hard job of working many many hours but they know that before they are handed the keys to their store and they are salaried.

  9. Visitor [Join Now]
    Beentheredonethat [visitor]

    Wow. Was the economy in bad shape 10 years ago. Thats when i worked there and all this stuff was going on then too! Way to go with this lawsuit. Its loooooooong overdue !

  10. Visitor [Join Now]
    Beentheredonethat [visitor]

    I was told in interview that there is a lunch break and on my 1st day i was then told that we really DONT get a lunch. We were never allowed to eat in our backroom because our lunch was on the clock and we had to wait on customers as we ate. Il requires an uninterrupted lunch break. We had to pick movies up from blockbuster on our way into work. If we didnt answer phone when manager called us to tell us to pick up the movies we were accused of screening our calls and threatened with a writeup. It pissed manager off if we picked up movies on the clock. Manager only wanted this done if we were on our way into work. We were also required to stop at bank and pick up validated deposit slips on our way to work. We were sometimes chewed out if we arrived at work and had not stoped by bank for deposit slip.

  11. Visitor [Join Now]
    Shell [visitor]

    I worked at a Family Video for 2 1/2 years and in all that time I worked off the clock every week. We closed at midnight and if we were not done with closing procedures by 12:30 we had to punch out and finish. If we didn’t agree, and decided to just not finish what had not gotten done by 12:30 we were written up. Of course they never would admit you were written up for not working for free. I finally left when I got sick of getting taken advantage of. I can’t even count the number of times I had to eat a cold meal after trying to eat for hours in between customers! It’s about time this happened to them!

  12. Visitor [Join Now]
    Beentheredonethat [visitor]

    I too and my coworkers would clockout after 1230 and complete our work.

  13. Visitor [Join Now]
    Beentheredonethat [visitor]

    I too and my coworkers would clockout after 1230 and complete our work. We were told never to leave anthing for the a.m. Shift and to get it done as fast as possible after clocking out

  14. Visitor [Join Now]
    seriously. its a job [visitor]

    I have also been an employee at Fam Vid and all I have to say is…get over it. Seriously, if you want to be treated like a KING at your place of employment, why don’t you get a job at Google. There are a million things wrong with every freaking place that you can work and Family Video definitely does things for a reason. Every complaint you have posted on here could have been avoided. I have never had a problem with any of the things you are talking about. Lunch breaks? Really? Come on. How many of you ACTUALLY had to work over an 8 hour shift without eating anything!? So what if you had to eat it while you waited on customers? Get OVER it. And you didn’t get your work done before 12:30? I was out of there by 12:10 every single night I closed. It’s called time management. And if you want a job that pays you for every single second of the work you do for them, get a salaried job and see how much extra work you actually do. Wow, you are all extremely pathetic and NEED to get some work ethic. There is a reason Family Video is still open…

    • Member [Join Now]
      Hellstorm [hellstorm]

      Yeah, who cares about stupid labor laws put in place to protect people from predatory employment practices in the middle of the worst economic/job search climate in recent history? [/sarcasm]

      FYI: People who are salaried don’t get paid based upon the amount of time they work, people who get paid hourly do – when their employers understand and follow the law.

    • Member [Join Now]

      When employees get paid by the hour, making them work off the clock is ILLEGAL. You ARE supposed to get paid for every single second of work. I would like a longer lunch break, but that’s just a complaint. There’s a big difference between a complaint and felony fraud.

      • Visitor [Join Now]
        Jack Skellington [visitor]

        Then you had bad managers who were making you work off the clock. It’s not in writing anywhere and clearly not all stores operate as you are saying.

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      famvid ex employee [visitor]

      I agree with the others. Time management is key, but I worked at a Family Video in the second largest city in the state where people came in at 11:50 and expected to have another 30 min to do whatever. My first night training to close I was told to clock out no later than 12:30 or we would get in trouble and to still finish working. I had to weed and move mulch on the clock while in heels and dress clothes and watching for customers or I would be written up for a bad attitude. One of the girls suggested breaks at an audit and was fired the next day for “poor knowledge of the company and a bad attitude”- she had worked there 2 years. People were fired for bad sales percentages, bad attitudes, and not respecting the management. When employees questioned policies or hours they weren’t scheduled for weeks at a time. I was 19 and closing the store by myself in a part of town that was frequently robbed and guns were fired. Not cool at all.

  15. Visitor [Join Now]
    Rhonda [visitor]

    This is the best thing for everyone! I was a loyal employee there for years. They move you around from store to store without giving you any options. You get no lunch breaks and often they want people to close alone at night. Getting a bathroom break was nearly impossible and forget eating, there was never any time. They required that we get there early and we stay late after we clocked in and out. They tried to tell us that it was our fault for not being time efficient so in order for us to remain a hired employee, we had to work off of the clock! If anyone knows how I can get in contact with the lawyer or the guy suing, let me know. I will gladly help fight for this lawsuit.

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      Marta [visitor]

      Oh there’s plenty of time for restroom breaks, as long and you take the store phone with to answer while your in there if it rings and keep it under 30 seconds.

  16. Visitor [Join Now]
    Zach [visitor]

    IDK who is telling all of these people to work of the clock, but I’ve been with Family Video for 5 years and I have NEVER EVER worked off the clock or been asked to. I run a mid-volume store and we are very conscience of our payroll costs, but all of my people including a teenage girl in high school can complete her closing tasks and cleaning before 12:30. I find it interesting that so many people complain after the fact, why not bring it up when you are currently employed? If you got fired, you were doing something besides saying you wouldn’t work off the clock.

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      Former [visitor]

      How dare you speak for others. There are over 500 stores therefore you do not know the practices that are going on in other regions and districts. I do not think these many people are complaining without cause. All the stories are very consistent. If you run your store so well then kudos to you but I am telling you it is not the same for others and many have suffered due these poor practices. There is obviously cause for a lawsuit because the lawyers would not take the case if there was not. And I doubt all of the people that got fired for complaining were doing “something” else. It is not right of you to judge these people. Remember these were all WOW interviews and were hired for their WOW personalities. Therefore you should believe they had the right credentials to work there in the first place.

      • Visitor [Join Now]
        Former [visitor]

        Also I was able to finish all my closing tasks by 12:07 but I did not get paid for those 7 minutes I spent there every night because you only get paid in 15 min increments and if you clock out after 1207 only we were not allowed to stay later as to not put us over for the week. I should not have to work for free every single night that is against the law and it is morally worng.

  17. Visitor [Join Now]
    md73 [visitor]

    Here is the link for those of you interested in joining the lawsuit:

    You are eligible if you’ve been employed there in the past 3 years.