Malvern Company Docked Employee Pay for Bathroom Breaks

Now it could face $1.75 million in fines.

Alfredo Ragazzoni/Shutterstock

Alfredo Ragazzoni/Shutterstock

Think your workplace is cut-throat? Think your boss is breathing down your neck? We’ll it’s probably nothing compared to the work culture at Malvern-based telemarketer Progressive Business Publications. The U.S. Department of Labor said the company, forced workers to clock out to go to the bathroom, drink water and even stretch their legs.

“The workers had their pay docked for virtually all time not spent making sales calls, sometimes bringing their wages below the federal minimum wage,” the DOL said in a statement.

The DOL reports that a federal judge recently found the company — also known as American Future Systems — in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and estimates that it’s liable for $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.

“Telemarketers had to clock in and out for every break, even those as short as two to three minutes,” the DOL said. “The timekeeping system then deducted the break time from their total hours worked each week.”

Well, that’s not legal under the Fair Labor Standards Act’s record-keeping requirements. The FLSA does not require lunch or coffee breaks, but the law considers short breaks (usually lasting about 5-to-20 minutes) “compensable work hours that must be included in the sum of hours for the work week and considered in determining overtime,” the DOL said.

“For far too long, American Future Systems penalized its employees for taking breaks to meet the most basic needs during the work day — stretching their legs, getting a glass of water or just using the restroom,” said Jim Cain, district director for the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division. “The judge’s decision reaffirms how clear the FLSA is about short breaks being compensable, and goes a long way in making these employees whole by awarding liquidated damages.”

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