AT&T Workers in Indiana Claim Lunch Break Violations

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Workers for AT&T in Indiana claim in a lawsuit that they are forced to endure odd and punitive lunch break restrictions such as a ban on napping after eating a ham sandwich.

According to a class action suit filed by 11 employees against AT&T Midwest, the telecommunications company has forced technicians to endure “heavy restrictions” on their unpaid lunch break or risk discipline.

According to the suit, employees allege the telecom company allows them to eat packed lunches in vehicles during unpaid lunch hours, but not spend the remainder of the lunch break reading newspapers, napping, or using personal computers or music players in vehicles.  Workers also are barred from idling vehicles for air conditioning or heat during lunch.  Manhole workers must stay and guard the area during lunch break; they cannot go more than one-half mile from one assigned job to another for lunch or face discipline.

“AT&T is committed to full compliance with all federal and state laws, including the wage and hour laws, and has received numerous awards for being an employer of choice,” Marty Richter, a spokesperson for AT&T, said in a statement to ABC News.

Kimberly Jeselskis, an attorney for the plaintiffs, responded in a statement to ABC News: “Obviously my clients disagree with that statement since we filed this case and there’s a companion case currently pending in Wisconsin detailing the same issues.”

The lawsuit, first posted on Courthouse News, continues, “the company’s restrictions on movement and activities during the unpaid lunch break and its productivity measurement system put pressure on the technicians to work through all or part of the lunch break without pay (rather than sitting in a potentially cold or overheated vehicle doing nothing).”

The lawsuit alleges violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act by “treating the time allocated to the technicians so-called meal breaks, AT&T has failed to pay the technicians time and a half for all such hours worked in excess.”   The lawsuit alleges violation of Indiana wage laws and violation of Indiana record-keeping laws.

The suit is seeking to have the unpaid lunch break deemed illegal under the FLSA and state law, payment of attorney fees and damages.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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