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Local Tech Wire
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Attorneys representing more than 5,000 current and former (NYSE: T) workers have filed two class action lawsuits against the communications giant, alleging that the employees were not paid overtime.
The suits are seeking $1 billion.
Affected workers were titled as “first-level managers” but had minimal supervisory roles, the suits say.
Attorneys say the employees were classified as managers by AT&T in 2007 after it acquired BellSouth in order to avoid paying overtime.
"If you call somebody a duck and it doesn’t quack, it doesn’t swim and it doesn’t have wings, it ain’t a duck," one of the attorneys in the case told Reuters. He added that BellSouth used to pay the same workers overtime until a policy change in 2007.
Added Jeremy Heisler, the lead counsel in the case: "AT&T is in disconnect mode when it comes to its so-called managers. The company knows all too well that its ‘Managers’ have that title in name only, and lack the typical managerial responsibilities you associate with a manager.
“In fact, until the takeover by AT&T two years ago, BellSouth used to pay all its First Levels overtime,” he added in a statement. “What changed? Nothing but the Company’s desire to squeeze earned wages out of its employees’ paychecks."
The suits were filed in federal court in Atlanta and San Francisco.
Lawyers in the case won court approval in November to represent other AT&T workers as a class action suit in New England.
“The two class actions seek unpaid overtime wages for First Levels who worked for PacBell in California, BellSouth’s 9-state region in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina and Kentucky, and nearly every other state in the union where the phone giant does business,” the law firms involved in the case said in a press release.
“The suits allege that AT&T violated the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and California state laws by carrying out a company-wide policy to wrongfully misclassify thousands of its Level One Managers as exempt from overtime wages.”
AT&T declined comment other than saying it complied with federal and state wage laws.
The company employs some 8,000 people in North Carolina.
Pacific Bell became part of AT&T in 2005.