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  • Some questions on how to proceed with a KY employer Kentucky

    I've been trying to do a lot of self research to see what my options are in my fellow employee's and I's case. We feel we have a rather serious case on our hands, but are very uncertain how to proceed. I apologize if this inquiry is disjointed or confusing, but I'd like to attempt to list out some of the details.

    Many employees at this company have been here for years. None of them are able to ever remember any sort of issues as we've been experiencing. This company hires a majority of it's employees through temporary agencies. I'm myself a hired hand from one of the temp agencies, as well as about 1/2 of the affected workers.

    There are three main issues occurring repeatedly (multiple times per week for the last 6+ weeks). Firstly, KY mandated meal breaks between the 3rd and 5th hour of work are being denied (as in, not offered, when requested, told no), even though we're working shifts between 5.5-8.5 hours, varied by the nights volume of work. Second, these meal breaks are occasionally granted after the 6th hour worked, but not always. If they are, it's accompanied by "take your lunch, and clock back in and go to another department to work out the rest of your shift." The issue here is for the past 1.5 months, we've been reduced to a 6 hour shift. Per the company policy, we're required to receive a 24 hour notice to any change (reduction or extension) in hours for it to be mandated, yet we're not. This is not voluntary, this is strictly "go here or go home and do not come back." Secondly.5 of this, our second "no less than 10 minute paid break" for every 4 hours worked which the company has adopted to be a 15 minute break is not given. Third, management has resorted to threats of retaliation, or even actually retaliating (specifically, against a manager that spoke out on our behalf) against anyone who speaks out about these issues. I myself have been threatened to be demoted and moved to another department "so I can take my lunch with them." When I denied this, and claimed it to be retaliatory, I was then told "then you can just hit the door and find your lunch elsewhere." These tactics are used to get the employees to do as management wishes. Should we refuse, we're risking our positions or our continued employment.

    As mentioned, I'm having issues deciphering the laws around this. I know beyond a doubt that all of the above is illegal in the state of KY. My issue arises with the temp agencies being involved. I've talked to shift managers at the company, the supervisor, the operations manager for the facility, the companies HR department, and my temp agency liaison. Early into this ordeal, the supervisor, the OM, and HR said they'd look into the issue (even though I pointed out the KY Break Laws poster in the break room, and showed them exactly what the KY Labor Cabinet website says on their page from my phone), all of which avoided any further contact with me, and began pulling the above mentioned intimidation tactics to get me to drop it, except for HR, whose only response is "we'll look into it." The OM specifically is the one making threats, the supervisor seems to just "follow the lead" so to say, perhaps out of fear of their position. The shift managers are either A) on our side, but quiet about the ordeal for fear of their jobs, or B) on our sides, outspoken and professional when needed, but are retaliated against and demoted to an hourly employee, being told, and I quote, "if you're going to be a manager here, you have to be about the company." This has only happened once. The other's seemed to take the hint and no longer offer any fuss when we're being held back.

    The temp agency honestly seems powerless in all of this. My liaison sympathies with me, and admits that what is happening is wrong. However, he too has complained to what degree he can, with no success. He's said to me "they play by their own rules."

    I've secured my time punches for the past 3 months thanks to a supervisor who sympathises with our situation. They show a clear trend from 8+ hours per day, all breaks given correctly, to a sudden change of 5.5-8.5 hours worked, no lunches or 2nd breaks provided, and if a lunch is provided, it's between the 6-7th hour worked mark. There are 17 instances of 5.5+ hours worked with no lunch given, with 11 of those being 6+ hours worked. There are 3 instances of getting a lunch between the 6-7th hour. Myself or no other employee has signed any documentation stating we forfeit our lunch, nor have we verbally declared such. We have ALL verbally cried out regarding breaks at some point, but due to their threats and our fear of job loss or discrimination, have given up the chase. My own pursuit of furthering this only came when I was directly threatened by the OM. A few choice quotes by the OM: "You only deserve a lunch if you're working 6+ hours." When asked what he would do when employees began having issues due to heat exhaustion "Hot? You think this is hot? You have no idea you p***y. Just wait until it really gets to be summer." Will we receive our breaks correctly then? "If you work 6 or more hours, sure." "We don't need someone in this department that isn't about the company." When told you're avoiding the problem in this situation "I'm not avoiding the problem, I'm solving it."

    So that's pretty much the backstory, barring any identifying details, or more specifics on certain arguments.

    For the questions now.

    Some of the employees have been discussing joining together for a class action lawsuit (there are about 30 people affected by this, it goes up and down thanks to new hires and some finding better employment), some have discussed just phoning into the Department of Labor and reporting them, and some feel the need to just keep quiet and be grateful that we have work, as they'd rather not stir anything up to threaten that.

    I've personally been trying to get ahold of a lawyer for this, but I've ran into a lot of dead ends. Most that I have called seem to be "employment law attorneys for employers." The ones that I have found that were for employees have yet to give a call back. I've posted on a few of those law question boards that suggest you an attorney once your question has been answered, but none have answered. Is this a dark area for most lawyers? Is it something that takes a special breed to pursue?

    Many are confused as to where the blame even lies. Are our respective temp agencies to blame? There are 4 that hire employees into the company. Is the company itself to blame? Should we try and reach further up within the company before pursuing legal recourse? There's an 800 number to report "any and all crimes that take place within the facility" though I think someone tried that already with no luck, as apparently "any and all crimes" really just means crimes of theft and drug use/possession nature.

    At this point, some of us feel that our damages (emotional stress, hunger, heat exhaustion due to working 3-5 hours at times without a break) would be ignored if we simply went higher up into the company, or simply called the Labor Board. The employees who feel this way likened the Labor Board to "a slap on the wrist for what they've committed." Is that so? Or could we expect some sort of repayment for what this company has done?

    As far as proof, I have the mentioned clock times for myself taken directly from their own records, as well as my own records. They're not changing it in their system to hide it, so outside of recording the absence of our paid breaks (these are not tracked in the clock system, or any system afaik) I don't see much of a need to keep any further records of my own. As proof for the threats, the only thing I could offer is a witness or two that overheard a bit of it at a distance, or the supervisor who stood right there, though they seem just as fearful of the OM. Would it be illegal to provoke the OM again and record the audio? Would this be admissible as evidence? And how about the retaliation that would surely follow?

    I suppose that's all the questions for now. I apologize again for the extremely large post, I've just been searching and searching, and felt that perhaps detailing it all out on a forum designed for law questions might be best. For what it's worth, this isn't some local company. This is a branch of a world leader in it's respective area.

    Thank you for your time.

  • #2
    I can't believe I actually read your whole post....and this is just one opinion (and I am not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV, just been in HR a long time)

    one thing I read on the KY labor law website is that yes, those are the rules for breaks/meals but it gives an out that is something like: "Unless agreed upon between the employer and the employees". So that might give the employer a little more leeway than you think it does. I can't say for sure because it doesn't sound like the employees have agreed to it, BUT I am not sure you have as big of a case as you believe you have. You need to be very sure you never agreed to something different (possibly in an employee handbook that you signed at hire, etc).

    They can legally reduce your shift hours to 6 and there is no law that requires them to keep the policy of 24 hour advanced notice for a change in shift.

    And no, the temp agency would have nothing to do with this policy unless you are still somehow employees under them (co-employment perhaps). They have no control over what your employer does once you become an employee. I guess they could fire the employer as a client, but I don't know many temp agencies that would turn down the work/commissions over unhappy former temps.

    It truly sounds like you are looking for a fight -- provoking the issue to a level that it doesn't need to go, talking to everyone you can think of, etc. Have you put your concerns IN WRITING to HR and asked for a written response? I personally wouldn't tape a conversation without the other party knowing it. Even if it is legal, that might go against company policy.

    You don't happen to be covered by the Federal Railway Labor Act do you? Because that is another exemption to these rules.

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    • #3
      Hey hr for me, thank you very much for the reply. ^^ I'll go through it bit by bit.

      Originally posted by hr for me View Post
      You need to be very sure you never agreed to something different (possibly in an employee handbook that you signed at hire, etc).
      One of the first things I checked actually. Most of the paperwork I filled out was at the temp agency office, however what little that was filled out at the factory has been checked. I called the agency office shortly after this first started, and they assured me that there is no such clause in their forms.

      They can legally reduce your shift hours to 6 and there is no law that requires them to keep the policy of 24 hour advanced notice for a change in shift.
      That problem was admittedly more of a policy/common courtesy issue. To be clear of what has happened, our hours were reduced to 6 hours 1.5 months ago, which isn't illegal or anything at all, and it was handled fairly professionally, giving us a two day warning. What the other employees and I have issue with is we'll work 3 hours, take a 15 paid break, work 2.5-3+ hours until our work is done, then we're occasionally told to take our lunch, and when we clock back in, go to another department. The main issue we have with this (unless this is illegal in some way, remember, it's not a "will you please go to another department, we're short there" but more of a "this is your job to go there, either you go there, or once you hit that door don't come back" approach) is we're expected to stay until the work is finished there as well, even though we're only scheduled until 3:30, and the work in these other departments can frequently exceed 6 AM or further. A bit I didn't mention above is this all takes place on third shift.

      And no, the temp agency would have nothing to do with this policy unless you are still somehow employees under them (co-employment perhaps). They have no control over what your employer does once you become an employee.
      This is where it gets murky. As far as I'm aware, we're still employees of the temp agencies. They control our payment and deposits (but not our actual pay, the factory simply reports our hourly wage and hours worked to them), any injuries of a temp agency employee is handled solely by the temp agency, unless immediate medical attention is required, and any company events have different rules for factory employees and temp agency employees, whatever they're able to negotiate out. Would I just ask them if we're co-employed? Is there anything specific I should be aware of concerning this?

      It truly sounds like you are looking for a fight -- provoking the issue to a level that it doesn't need to go, talking to everyone you can think of, etc. Have you put your concerns IN WRITING to HR and asked for a written response? I personally wouldn't tape a conversation without the other party knowing it. Even if it is legal, that might go against company policy.
      I suppose "looking for a fight" is a good way to put it. I've had a bad job here and there in the past, spiteful employees/managers, bad working conditions, etc. Never anything that was unlawful, just not the type of work or conditions I wanted to be a part of.

      A few years back though, I had an employer who pulled a lot over on me. It was a traveling sales business, and by time I got wise to what was going on, I had tickets against me in various cities due to being the "acting manager" in the area, due to his unlawful practices. I had Uhauls that were unpaid for and overcharged in my name. A company bank account tied to my name that for the longest time had my pay direct deposited into it suddenly stopped receiving pay, and it was overdrafted by his use of the company account. Many things that had I been prepared and more knowledgable, I could of fought back. By time it was all said and done though, it was too late. What records there were were tied to me, and there was little I could do to actually prove that the issues stemmed from him.

      Fairly off topic, but I feel that's why I'm so adamant to not let this continue happening. I was used once without being prepared, I won't let it happen again. I've already been seeking the "easy way out" I guess you could call it, by putting in apps in a few different industries, but that's yet to yield a result yet.

      I'll have to get it in writing from HR, I had never thought of that. Audio recordings just jumped to the front of my mind as proof I suppose. Silly digital age. :x Does HR have any obligations to answer back in writing? Or would this possibly just be met with more side stepping?

      You don't happen to be covered by the Federal Railway Labor Act do you? Because that is another exemption to these rules.
      As far as I know, no. This is a processing facility that sorts and distributes products. I did read a reply on this very board of someone in KY claiming, from a cousin that worked at their plant I believe, that the board of labor considered their factory part of that act due to having a conveyor belt that must be kept running all the time. We do have that, but is that an actual fact that makes a business part of that act? And if so, wouldn't that be the first thing an employer would spout back after being accused of ignoring the break laws? I can't imagine any sort of reasoning to withhold such info. I read the wiki on the act, and I can't imagine how it would be related to such a business.

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      • #4
        What the other employees and I have issue with is we'll work 3 hours, take a 15 paid break, work 2.5-3+ hours until our work is done, then we're occasionally told to take our lunch, and when we clock back in, go to another department. The main issue we have with this (unless this is illegal in some way, remember, it's not a "will you please go to another department, we're short there" but more of a "this is your job to go there, either you go there, or once you hit that door don't come back" approach) is we're expected to stay until the work is finished there as well, even though we're only scheduled until 3:30, and the work in these other departments can frequently exceed 6 AM or further. A bit I didn't mention above is this all takes place on third shift.

        While I completely understand why this upsets you, it does not violate any laws at all. Your job is what the employer says it is.
        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
          Rather than pestering everyone in the facility over this, if you feel there really is a violation, file a claim with the KY Labor Cabinet. It is free to do so and you can even do it online https://apps.labor.ky.gov/onlinecomplaint/

          The reason you are having a hard time finding an attorney is because it is rare for these types of situations to require one. There is a state agency who investigates and ensures compliance. There is no need to sue your employer or hire a lawyer to do what you already have the right to do.

          Much of what you describe is not in any way illegal. It doesn't matter if you feel taken advantage of by a past employer. Their misdeeds have no bearing on your current employment. You work in the department where your employer asks you to work. They don't need your permission to require that you do the work they need for you to perform. If you are making everything a battle and demanding a reason for everything you are asked to do, it isn't going to be long before you are told to do it or leave. Really, those are the options. I suggest you stop hounding anyone you can find, file a claim for those things which are true violations and continue looking for a job elsewhere.
          I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

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