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Lawsuit claims Blackstone underpaid assistants

BOSTON (Reuters) - An administrative assistant at Blackstone Group LP has sued the U.S. private equity firm for not paying her overtime despite regularly scheduling her to work more than 40 hours per week.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Boston on Wednesday, Hope Smith of Cambridge, Massachusetts, said the New York-based company had ordered her to work first 45 hours per week and later 50 hours per week at its Boston office from November 2007 through August 2009, but considered her position as "lead administrative assistant" exempt from the U.S. requirement to pay overtime.

The lawsuit claims the lead administrative assistant post does not count as a management position exempt from overtime requirements, and seeks class-action status covering all Blackstone employees holding that position.

"While we cannot comment on specific litigation, Blackstone is committed to following the letter and the spirit of all applicable labor laws," a Blackstone spokesman said.

The lawsuit also contends that Smith, who was hired on November 5, 2007, was "illegally demoted" to a non-lead administrative assistant role in August 2009 "because of their belief that her pregnancy prevented her from maintaining the hours they wished to impose upon a lead administrative assistant."

The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages.

Officials at Blackstone, which has immense real estate and private equity assets, could not be reached for comment.

The case is Smith v. Blackstone Group LP, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, Boston, No. 10-10324.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Additional reporting by Megan Davies in New York)

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