Indiana AT&T workers have filed suit against AT&T Midwest for forcing "heavy restrictions" on their unpaid lunch breaks. The workers described the restrictions as "odd," and "punitive," especially in light of the fact that the workers are not on the clock during this unpaid meal time.
According to the suit, the workers are allowed to eat packed lunches in their vehicles, but are not allowed to let the vehicles idle to utilize the air conditioning or heat. In addition, they are unable to read newspapers, nap or use personal devices such as tablets during their break.
The suit alleges that the Fair Labor Standards Act has been violated due to the restrictions, creating the pressure to work through their breaks -- else sit in an unheated or overheated vehicle doing nothing. AT&T claims they are in full compliance with federal and state wage and hour laws.
If the workers are off the clock, they ought to be able to spend it as they see fit -- within reason and professional conduct, of course. Reading, resting and listening to music are not unprofessional actions, even if they are off the clock in the company's vehicles. An interesting twist to the case is that the workers cannot go more than a half mile from the work site, which means grabbing takeout or eating in a restaurant as to avoid appearing to be on the clock is out of the question.
If the court finds in favor of the employees, these unpaid lunch breaks would be deemed illegal under the Fair Labor Standards Act and state law. There is a similar case being pursued in Wisconsin, and may bring about a ripple-effect of similar cases.
Source: ABC News, "AT&T Workers Claim Lunch Break Violations," Lyneka Little, Aug. 15, 2012
- Our firm handles cases on behalf of employees like those discussed in this post. For more information, visit our San Diego meal and rest period claims page.