Pa. Marketing Company Owes Millions to Workers Docked for Taking Work Breaks

If you’re going to give your workers coffee and bathroom breaks, make sure you include this time away from the desk as part of the compensation you pay your workers.

That’s the message from a federal court’s ruling that a Malvern, Pa., publishing company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by docking telemarketers’ pay for time not spent making sales calls, sometimes bringing their wages below the federal minimum wage.

For violations occurring through June 2013, Progressive Business Publications and its owner Edward Satell could be liable for at least $1.75 million in back wages and liquidated damages to more than 6,000 employees who worked in 14 call centers throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio, the U.S. Department of Labor said in an announcement of the ruling.

Progressive’s refusal to come into compliance for more than two years during the course of the litigation will increase significantly the amount of back wages and damages due its employees as a result of its illegal pay policy.

As the DOL explained:

“The FLSA does not require lunch or coffee breaks. However, when employers do offer short breaks (usually lasting about 5-to-20 minutes), the law considers the breaks compensable work hours that must be included in the sum of hours for the work week and considered in determining overtime.”

The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers also must maintain accurate time and payroll records. Employers who violate the law are liable to employees for their back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages. Both back wages and liquidated damages are paid directly to the affected employees.”

Here’s the DOL’s Monday announcement concerning the case.

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