A supermarket has been accused of violating Massachusetts wage law by locking in night employees without lunch pay.
Class action lawsuit alleges employees were locked in during unpaid lunch hour
A popular supermarket chain is the subject of a class action lawsuit in Massachusetts brought forward by two ex-employees, according to the Boston Globe. The employees allege they were locked in during their overnight shifts and were not allowed to leave during their one-hour lunch breaks. The allegations, if true, would be a violation of Massachusetts wage laws, which require employees to be paid for breaks if they are not permitted to leave their workplaces.
Locked in overnight
The workers at the supermarket say that it was store policy to lock in overnight employees once the closing manager left the premises. While the employees could open the doors in case of an emergency, doing so would trigger an alarm and result in the police being called. The lawsuit alleges that none of the employees who worked the overnight shifts had a key to turn off the alarm.
Employees complained that during their hour-long lunch breaks, they were not permitted to leave the store without triggering the alarm, yet they were not paid for those breaks. Employees speculated that the reason behind the policy was to prevent theft from either employees or outside intruders.
Policy would violate wage laws
While lock-in policies are themselves not illegal, since the employees can escape if there is an emergency, not paying employees when they cannot actually leave the store does violate Massachusetts wage laws. As an attorney for the plaintiffs pointed out, since the employees cannot leave the store during their break, that time should not be considered a break. According to guidelines issued by the state's Attorney General, lunch breaks must be paid if employees are not allowed to leave their place of work. Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that employees must be paid overtime for hourly breaks if they work for more than 40 hours per week, according to the Telegram & Gazette.
The lawsuit has raised some eyebrows since the company has tried to forge a reputation for treating its employees well, through programs such as profit sharing and employee bonuses. This lawsuit, however, paints a much different picture of a company that has up to 200 employees working night shifts at about 50 stores across Massachusetts every evening.
As this story shows, even companies that present a public face of treating employees well may end up violating employment laws behind closed doors. Employees have a right to be respected according to both state and federal laws, yet some employers choose to take advantage of the very people that make their companies run.
Any worker who believes an employer may be violating state or federal employment laws should contact an experienced attorney. An employment law attorney can use his legal expertise to make sure that workers receive the rights and benefits to which they are entitled.
Keywords: Massachusetts, wage laws