Publix Supermarkets, or simply Publix, is an American-owned supermarket chain headquartered in Lakeland, Florida. The company was started in 1930 by the Jenkins family. It is a private corporation with branches in the Southeastern United States in regions like Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Over the year, Publix has faced several lawsuits where they were forced to pay penalties in crazy amounts. The ten most significant Publix lawsuits in the company’s history are the following.
10. Norman Goldman and Carol Goldman vs. Publix Supermarket (Workplace Safety Violation)- $153,121
Norman Goldman and Carol Goldman sued Publix on the grounds of work safety violation. The jury ordered Publix to pay Norman compensation worth $153,121. The payment was supposed to cover three areas; past medical expenses incurred by the plaintiff, the pain and suffering caused by the fall, and any future pain and suffering that the plaintiff incurred. The jury did not award Carol anything because of her loss of consortium. Norman Goldman was represented by Parkland Florida Lawyers, who filed the suit on his behalf.
The statement states that Norman was doing his shopping at one of Publix’s branches in Florida. As he was walking in one of the aisles, he stepped on dog food, and liquid spilled on the floor, which made him fall. Norman filed the suit a year later, alleging that Publix was negligent and they did not consider the safety of its customers. According to Just In Ziegler, Carol filed for a loss consortium claim which the court denied after investigations. In its conclusion, the court established that Publix was 75% negligent, giving Norman 75% of the compensation.
9. Shoulder Injury lawsuit (Work safety violation)- $193,500
Publix Supermarkets has been awarded several slip and fall penalties. In this case, a shopper slipped and fell at Publix chain in Broward County, Florida. As a result of the fall, she suffered a torn rotator cuff to be fixed by surgery. The shopper also had back strains, neck pains, and arm bruises. In her statement, the shopper claimed that Publix did not provide a safe environment for her and other shoppers. She also argued that Publix was negligent because they allowed a dangerous situation to remain unattended for a long time. Her lawyer further argued that the supermarket failed to warn customers of the impending danger. The court ruled that the woman was to be paid $193,500 for pain and suffering, past medical expenses, and future medical costs.
8. Borino vs. Publix Supermarkets (Defamation case)- $200, 000
In this defamation case, the jury ordered Publix supermarket to pay Borino a penalty of $200,000. Borino was an employee of Publix supermarkets. He worked for twenty years as a clerk. Borino’s duties revolved around unloading trucks, stocking merchandise, and other strenuous labor. He also worked part-time for Delta Airlines to try and make ends meet. In 1998, the plaintiff had an accident and suffered an ankle injury. The injury forced him to take disability leave from Publix.
According to Case Text, the company had a disability program and paid him for his injury. The plaintiff temporarily stopped working for Delta Airlines and Publix. He returned to work after two months on a restricted duty where he was given fewer hours and light work. After some time, Borino gave Publix a medical note which allowed him to take a two-week break for medical revaluation. He received lighter duties at Delta Airlines and did not see the need to give them the medical note. The plaintiff worked at Delta for two weeks and gave Publix another medical note. Publix found out and terminated his employment.
7. Knee Injury Lawsuit against Publix (Work safety violation)- $250,587
A female shopper was shopping in the Publix chain in Palm Beach County. While strolling in one shopping aisle, she fell and injured her knee. Her fall was a result of water that was poured from a flower display. The plaintiff sued Publix because they did not mind customer safety and allowed water to stay on the floor for a long time. Further, Publix did not warm incoming customers with water. The accident occurred in 2006, and when the court heard the case, they determined that Publix was negligent. They ordered the plaintiff to be compensated with $250,587 to cover medical expenses from the knee injury. With the advanced law reforms, if the same case were filed today, the woman would have to prove to the court that Publix was negligent and they knew there was water on the floor and did not do anything.
6. Jessie Bellaiche vs. Publix Supermarkets (work safety violation)- $1.5 million
The court has ordered Publix to pay Jessie a penalty of $1.5 million for neglect in the place of work. In 2010, Jessie was doing her shopping in one of the stores belonging to Publix. While walking, she stepped on something which made her fall. She suffered several injuries due to the fall; detachment of rotator fall, dislocation of the humeral head, severing of the humeral head, and several fractures on the left shoulder. At that time, Jessie was 70 years which forced her to undergo several corrective surgeries and get an artificial shoulder implant.
Her age and the painful surgery made Jessie little movement on her left arm, which a second major surgery could only correct. Jessie could not get the second surgery because it was expensive. Her lawyer negotiated with Publix to pay her $126,000, which they refused. Jessie’s lawyer filed a petition in court. The court ruled in her favor and ordered Publix to pay her $1.5 million for the pain and damages caused by the fall. According to the court, Publix was negligent because they knew there was water on the floor and did not act accordingly.
5. Noncompliant Background Checks Forms (Employment Screening Violation)- $6.8 million
Noncompliant background check forms target employers who use disclosure forms that have release language. In the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), employers should write a prior notice before they consult a consumer report about any employee who applies for employment. The act requires employers to document the information in a state of disclosure.
In 2014, a class action suit was filed against Publix markets by Erin Knights, calling for the compensation of over 90,000 class members for the failure of disclosure by Publix. The case claimed the disclosure forms used by the company contained release language. According to Nat Law Review, Publix used a one-sentence release form stating, “I release Publix Super Markets, Inc., its employees, its authorized agents, and representatives from any liability in connection with any decisions made concerning my employment based on information reported.”
Publix admitted they were wrong and agreed to pay the penalty amounting to $6.8 million. The court ordered that the total liability be divided among the 90,000 class members, each receiving approximately $48.Pennsylvania District Court determined that Publix violated the FCRA act by attaching a waiver and release language in the authorization forms. Any violation of FCRA calls for statutory damages of between $100 and $1000 for every act breach. To avoid being on the wrong side of the law, employers who use consumer reports to do a background check on employees are required to review FCRA.
4. Collective Action Lawsuit (Wage and Hour Violation)- $7.2 million
Publix market has agreed to settle a $7.2 million penalty to end a collective action lawsuit for failure to compensate its employees. Deli and Bakery managers filed the case in Georgia in 2019. The managers accused the company of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act for discriminating against them in the distribution of overtime money. The penalty paid by Publix is meant to compensate over 1600 employees who had worked in managerial positions in the meat, deli, and bakery departments from October 2016 to April 2019, when the lawsuit was filed.
The case specifically stated that the department managers employed at the grocery store did not perform the manager’s work. The managers claimed that their shifts revolved around assisting customers, stocking food, and cleaning. According to the Fair and Labor Standards, anyone who performs such duties is entitled to receive overtime. The judges who handled the case claimed that the penalty was fair, reasonable, and adequate to compensate the aggrieved parties. Unfortunately, employers are using the tactic of wrongfully classifying employees to maximize their profits. The same employers deny employees overtime claims regardless of their work hours. According to FS Law Firm, many companies have fallen into the trap of wrongly classifying employees and giving them managerial titles, knowing well that they will not execute any administrative responsibilities.
3. Middleton Class Action Discrimination Lawsuit (Employee Discrimination)- $10.1 million
In 2001, Publix supermarket agreed to settle a lawsuit claim which was made against the company in 1997. According to Supermarket News, the supermarket chain agreed to pay a lawsuit claim of $10.1 million. The case filed against Publix states that the company discriminated against some employees and did not offer them employment because of their race. The proposal forced Publix to pay $7.7 million because it refused to admit wrongdoing and an additional $2.4 million to be paid to the plaintiff’s lawyers.
This case was filed by a group of employees who work at the Florida branch. The employees allege that they were paid fewer salaries than their white coworkers, yet they do the same work. They were also bypassed whenever the company had promotion vacancies. Apart from the $10.1 million, the company was required to pay an additional $55,000 to each lead employee who filed the lawsuit. They will compensate any other plaintiff with $15,000. The settlement of the case called for Publix to pay promotion claims amounting to $2.25 million and an extra $5.45 million for several charges which date back to 1993.
2. Overtime Claim Lawsuit (Wage and Hour Violation)- $30 million
In May 2012, one of the biggest lawsuits was filed against Publix markets. The lawsuit was filed by employees alleging that the company was using a fluctuating work week to calculate the number of hours worked by the departmental and assistant departmental managers. When tabulating the managers’ overtime pay, the company did not factor in holiday bonuses, pay, or other factors. The managers complained that they were paid a fixed salary, ignoring the hours they worked.
Their salary every week was already predetermined by the directors of Publix. The managers who worked overtime were paid at half the rate paid on an average hour. As this was going on, other employees were being paid half the regular rate when the company used the fluctuating workweek. After the lawsuit, Publix eliminated the use of the Fluctuating Workweek. Publix was ordered to compensate the departmental managers and assistant departmental managers $30 million. The court ordered the money to be shared equally between the managers. Publix, in their defense, said they established Fluctuating Workweek to help employees have a constant paycheck every week.
1. Employment Bias lawsuit (Employee Discrimination)- $81.5 million
In January 1997, Publix pays a penalty of $81.5 million to settle an employment bias lawsuit against 150,000 women. According to Latimes, the charges by women employees accuse the company of discriminating against them and giving them below-average and low-paying jobs. Two years before this lawsuit, they filed another lawsuit against Publix for sex discrimination in allocating job assignments, working hours, and job promotions.
The court ordered Publix to pay the penalty to break the ceiling and allow for equal employment opportunities. The court settlement is to all women working in all Publix stores in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina from 1991 to 1997. In total, Publix has 535 stores operating in these regions. In its defense, Publix denied the allegations that they don’t discriminate against women when assigning job duties and promotions. They said this is direct work by the Food and Commercial Workers Union to try and force a nonunion company. The statement is by eight women who accuse the grocery store of continuously passing them when there was a promotion opportunity.