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Montana Prison Settles Suit For Employees' Interrupted Lunch Breaks

Fourteen Montana State Prison (MSP) employees brought suit against the state Department of Corrections for reimbursement after allegedly working through their lunch breaks. The suit for damages in excess of $250,000 settled for $124,000.

MSP employees consisting of three shift commanders, nine case managers and two hearings officers brought the suit in 2006. They claimed that although they were not paid for lunch breaks, they felt that it was expected of them. Some allegedly experienced minimal interruption and some answered questions and telephone calls during the breaks which was alleged to be standard practice for the previous two or three years. None of the non union employees had direct care or custody responsibility for the prisoners.

The State disputed the validity of many of the claims, said MSP Warden Mike Mahoney, who continued to state "obviously, the demands of operating a secure care facility are different from...conventional workplaces." He claimed that the settlement was agreed to because a trial with fourteen plaintiffs could exceed that amount and be time consuming. The policy has since been allegedly changed to provide paid lunch breaks. The settlement was to be split equally between the plaintiffs. Source: Associated Press Helena, "Corrections Settles With Employees Who Work Lunch," Nov. 6, 2007.

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