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Security Guards Awarded $89.7M in Rest-Break Class Action

At issue in the litigation was that guards were given 'on-duty' breaks during which they were required to keep their cellphones or pagers on.

July 10, 2012
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A California judge on July 6 awarded about 15,000 former and present security guards of ABM Security Services Inc. $89.7 million in wages, interest and penalties in a class action lawsuit filed over the issue of rest breaks.

At issue in the litigation, which began in July 2005, was that guards were given "on-duty" breaks during which they were required to keep their cellphones or pagers on, according to court papers in the case, Jennifer Augustus vs. American Commercial Social Security Services et al. ACSS is a subsidiary of New York-based ABM.

The company "balks at the notion that the employer must relieve workers of all duties for the rest break to be legally valid," said Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John S. Wiley in his ruling. "Put simply, if you are on call, you are not on break. That has been the law for many years," said Wiley, who also denied the company's motion to decertify the class.

"Substantively, California's labor law gave advance notice of the penalties for depriving workers of rest breaks," said Wiley. "Those penalties are straightforward and chastening. When the view is clear and the exposure chastening, the rational hiker steers clear of the edge of the cliff. ACCS broke the law and must pay according to that law. That is the rule of law and not a violation of due process."

Drew Pomerance, a partner with Roxborough Pomerance Nye and Adreani L.L.P. in Los Angeles who represented the plaintiffs, said in a statement, "ABM's conduct is the poster child for how California businesses should not behave, and it's very satisfying to see a court finally hold them accountable."

ABM general counsel Sarah McConnell said in a statement, "We will vigorously pursue our right to appeal because we firmly disagree with today's ruling, its interpretation of California rest period law and California class certification standards. We contend that we provide our workers with rest breaks conforming to both the letter and spirit of the law."

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