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  • "Working" through Lunch

    I work as a police officer (private college) (40hr week) (hourly pay) I am scheduled from 11pm til 730am but only get paid for a 40hr week. Sometimes I don't take a lunch or when I do I am in a marked police cruiser monitoring the radio and would respond to a call if need be. Anyone know of any successful lawsuits to get the back pay for the 30 min lunch? Also we never have taken the 2 15 min breaks? If so is there a stat. of limitation on how far back you can go for the pay?

  • #2
    Neither Federal nor Massachusetts state law requires that private employer offer two 15 minute rest breaks; in fact, NO state requires two 15 minute rest breaks for adult employees (six states require a 10 minute rest break for every four hours worked).

    MA law requires that if you work six hours or more, you are entitled to a 30 minute meal break. I believe that the Labor Commissioner has been known to grant exceptions in certain circumstances but I have no way of knowing if your situation falls into one of them.

    You don't need to file a lawsuit to recover the back pay for the breaks; all you need to do is contact the MA AG's office (they function as the DOL in this state) and file a complaint.
    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

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    • #3
      Do you know how far back they will let you try to collect on if a complaint is filed? Thanks

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      • #4
        What immediately comes to mind is two years, three if the violation is found to be willful, but I'm not sure if that's Federal or state. That's why I didn't respond to that part of the question initially - because I'm not sure.
        The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

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        • #5
          I know that's the federal SOL, cbg. I don't know if MA extends that, though.
          I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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          • #6
            MA law goes back 3 years. No need to prove willfulness. The only time you need to prove "evil intent", is if the employee wants to collect treble damages, which he would be entitled to if it can be proved.

            As for working during meal breaks, the issue is whether or not you're performing a "work-related duty". This is governed by the Mass. Meal Break Law. There is one DOS opinion letter on the matter which basically says that if an employee is not permitted to leave the work site, or is not relieved of all work during the break, then the employee must be compensated for that time. It woud seem that under your description, you were indeed performing work related duties during your break.

            Interestingly, the US Supreme court came out with a ruling a couple weeks ago dealing with employees going to work. The issue concerned an employee who had to change into work gear (special clothes for a hazardous job) and then travel further to get to the actual site, and whether that employee should be compensated for that time. The answer was yes. This has called into question whether federal law would require employers to count "working time" for those people required to carry blackberry's, etc.

            As for what to do about it. You don't have to have an attorney. Indeed, the Attorney General does handle these matters. Your issue is that you might want an attorney, and the legal system is set up to encourage you to get one. The AG receives 65,000 complaints a year for a very small staff. The statutes governing wages permit you to recover for all attorneys fees and expenses. So, when they made the laws, the legislature put in place systems to encourag people to seek private attorneys to relieve the burden on the AG's office.

            Hope that helps.
            This post is by Philip Gordon, a Massachusetts employment attorney (www.gordonllp.com).

            This post is NOT legal advice. It is for general/educational information purposes only. You should not rely on this post if you are making decisions, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. This post may be considered "advertising" under the MA professional rules for attorneys.

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