Resolution of such conflict borders on the impossibility: if an armored car employee is to be engaged in his or her task at all times as mandated by the employer, then taking uninterrupted rest periods and meal breaks simply isn’t an option. The situation leaves the employer constantly vulnerable to non-compliance, while the employee is denied basic employment rights as guaranteed by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and various state statutes.
The previously referenced Courier Unpaid Overtime lawsuit, Case No. BC564369, is based in California. A similar lawsuit, brought by armored courier employees in the State of Washington, goes back to 2011 and aptly reflects the disconnect between labor law and what is expected of the armored car courier.
That lawsuit is Pellino v. Brink’s Inc. Court documents suggest that armored cars in the Brink’s fleet are staffed by a uniformed driver and a messenger. The employees are not exempt from overtime pay. According to court documents, the employees were duly paid straight time for all meal and rest periods, but were provided with no scheduled breaks.
The unpaid wages lawsuit further stated that Brink’s required their employees to “be vigilant and alert at all times,” and to “guard the cash and other valuables entrusted to Brink’s by its customers continuously while on their runs.” The company also required its courier staff to not only remain alert at all times, but also to appear alert. Personal activities such as reading for pleasure, even on breaks, were prohibited.
Thus, while meal breaks and rest periods were duly paid, the employees maintained that such breaks were not provided - and were not true breaks, given Brink’s requirement that couriers be vigilant in guarding their cargo at all times.
It’s a classic Catch-22. It also, courts decided, ran afoul of Washington employment law.
Employment law in the State of Washington holds that non-exempt employees are allowed to take a 30-minute meal period (either paid or unpaid) starting no later than five hours after their workday begins. Employees must also be allowed to take one 10-minute paid rest period for each four-hour work period on either a scheduled or intermittent basis.
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The trial court agreed, and the appellate court upheld that finding: that the vigilance required by the company amounted to “active observation and mental exertion at all times,” and thus was compensable.
The judgment against Brink’s in the Washington Courier Unpaid Overtime case was $2.1 million.
Given basic employment rights as entrenched federally in the FLSA and locally according to state laws, the disconnect between those rights and the realities of serving as an armored courier suggests there are a lot more employees out there diligently undertaking their duties in accordance to the wishes and requirements of their employer, while being underpaid.