About 15,000 security guards will receive an $89.7 million settlement from their employer, ABM Security Services, after filing a workplace abuse class action law suit. The plaintiffs claimed that the company denied their guards appropriate rest breaks.
According to allegations made in the suit, ABM guards were forced to stay on duty even during their mandated breaks, leaving either their cell phones or pagers turned on so they could be contacted by their supervisors. The company had previously obtained an exemption from the Department of Labor Standards Enforcements which legally allowed them to compel guards to remain on-duty during breaks, but that exemption had expired. ABM decided not to renew the exemption, reportedly for financial reasons.
On July 6, Superior Court Judge John Wiley ruled that the practice violated California labor laws: "Put simply, if you are on call, you are not on break," he said. "That has been the law for many years." Clarifying what the law actually requires, Wiley further explained that in order for a break period to be legally valid, workers must be relieved of all duties during that time period. Labor laws differ by state. In California, where the suit was filed, workers are entitled to a 10 minute break for every four hours they are on duty.
Class action suits against employers who illegally deny employees their fair wages or hours are on the rise—research conducted by USA Today shows that there were 7006 federal court wage-and-hour suits filed in 2011, up 32% from suits filed in 2008 and almost four times as many as the amount filed in 2000.
- The main grievances sited in these claims were:
- Being forced to work off the clock
- Jobs being misclassified to be considered exempt from overtime pay
- Demands being made on personal time because of the ease of off-duty communications with smartphones and other forms of technology
At certain points in this country's history, employers were able to ignore workers' rights, forcing people to work long hours for substandard pay in unsafe conditions. Thankfully, that is no longer possible. Landmark employees' rights decisions such as this ABM settlement have forced employers to think twice before deviating from fair wage and labor laws.
Even in an environment where employers are being held accountable for their misdeeds, abuses do still occur. If your employer has violated your rights in any way while you were on the job, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the attorneys at Arnold & Itkin today for a free consultation regarding your case.