Sidney woman files labor violations suit against Airstream, Thor Industries

By Jim Painter - For the Sidney Daily News

SIDNEY – A former employee of Airstream in Jackson Center, has filed a civil lawsuit against the company and its corporate owner, Thor Industries She is seeking back pay for alleged uncompensated overtime work, and relief for what she considers a violation of her employment rights. The woman is also seeking the action become a class action case to include all employees whom she contends were wronged for their overtime compensation.

Sandra Funk, 43, 8262 Lochard Road, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Dayton on March 1. She is asking for compensation for an alleged miscalculation of overtime pay; to allow all employees affected by the same pay method to join the class action; class action as a violation of the Ohio Prompt Pay Act (OPPA); violating the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) with interference of her rights; and, for a violation of the Fair Market Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for retaliation actions towards her.

Her attorney, Matthew J.P. Coffman of Columbus, contends Funk has a solid claim for the overtime pay and alleged improprieties in management steps regarding her eventual termination.

In seeking information, the SDN was informed Airstream officials do not comment publicly on pending litigation, according to Christine McKenzie, administrative assistant to Airstream President and CEO Bob Wheeler in Jackson Center.

However, Coffman told the SDN recently of their stance on several items in the action.

Two-year employment period in question

According to court records, Funk was employed as a fulltime employee with the company from June 2015 until June 28, 2017. It’s during this time she claims the company miscalculated the pay rate for overtime hours worked.

Coffman claims this was a violation of the FLSA, the OPPA, and the Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act.

The suit claims Airstream did not pay the overtime rate of 1 ½ times the regular hourly rate for a 40-hour work week. It accuses the company of compensating employees with additional forms of remuneration such as nondiscretionary bonuses in addition to their employees’ hourly rates of pay.

Programs noted in court records included an AIR Bonus Pool and Attendance Bonus. Funk claims the bonus payouts were not calculated using the regular pay hourly rate.

The OPPA violation would presumably allow employees to gain their past pay at 6 percent or $200, whichever is higher, for each miscalculated payday. Coffman feels hundreds of employees were impacted.

Coffman stated, in part, “The first amended complaint alleges that Airstream and Thor Industries paid a weekly attendance bonus of $40 to employees if they had perfect attendance and were not late. In addition, the complaint alleges that they gave another monthly bonus based on whether employees met production goals.”

He continued, “The Fair Labor Standards Act provides the minimum required payments employers must make to employees, so we have alleged that the pay practices did not meet the minimum requirements of the law. Because the lawsuit alleges these were nondiscretionary bonuses – both the attendance and production bonus – those amounts should have been included in the calculation of the employees’ overtime rate. However, the nondiscretionary bonuses were excluded from their regular rates of pay, resulting in unpaid overtime wages due.”

He added, “Had theses bonuses been included in the calculation of the employees’ overtime rate, then the employees would have been paid a higher overtime rate for every hour of overtime worked.”

Medical leave act violation claimed

In March 2017, Funk developed a medical condition that required ongoing, and at times, immediate, medical care. She was absent from work from March 12 to April 10, 2017, claiming she qualified for the terms of the FMLA. Airstream officials approved Funk for the leave, according to court records.

In May, Funk claims she became ill requiring emergency medical treatment and missed work May 16-18 due to the illness. When she returned to work on May 19 presenting her doctor’s excuses from work, human resource official allegedly disciplined her for the same type absences she was previously approved for.

On June 12, Funk sought medical attention discovering her condition had returned. Her condition caused her to miss work through June 18. She claims when she requested paperwork for her FMLA, she received no response. Instead, management issued “occurrence points” against her for the absences. Her symptoms returned causing her to miss work again from June 17-23.

On June 26, her condition resulted in a visit to the emergency room for treatment. That same day, Funk allegedly received a telephone call from Danielle Bunke, a human resources generalist requesting documentation of the ER visit.

On June 27, now hospitalized, Bunke supposedly called Funk telling her that if she didn’t turn in the medical excuses by the end of the day she would be terminated. Funk had her son take the paperwork to the Airstream offices.

On June 28, Funk claims after working in the factory for some two hours she was called into a meeting with Joe Bumkin, a supervisor, Marion Slater, production manager, and Jeannie Lloyd, human resources manager. She alleges that was the first time she was given FMLA forms and threatened with termination. Funk had until the end of the day to complete the forms and return them to not be considered for termination.

By the end of the day, Funk had provided the doctor’s paperwork that proved her absences were related to her health condition. Court records claim Airstream officials did not inquire further to determine whether her absences were FLMA-qualifying or not. She was terminated for her employment.

On July 12, she received a letter stating that she was terminated for numerous failures of attendance. It was noted in the letter that Funk did not promptly request a medical leave. She claims it retaliation against her for using the FMLA.

Also, Funk claims she was not notified of her eligibility for medical coverage, if she began paying the premiums, when she was terminated. Employees may participate in the COBRA program (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) and continue their health coverage, once they are terminated.

Funk states she was not notified of the COBRA option. Coffman claims his client is eligible to receive the $110 per day penalty from the company for the non-disclosure, all medical expenses during that time, attorney fees and court-related costs.

By Jim Painter

For the Sidney Daily News

The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.

The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.