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Judge denies class-action status for wage disputes against AT&T

AT&T continues to be one of America's largest communications companies, with customers and employees in nearly every state, including Florida. As with other national companies, an employee dispute anywhere could be relevant to future problems here in South Florida.

That's why AT&T employees everywhere are likely paying attention to a wage-and-hour dispute claim brought against the company by more than 4,100 employees. The employees allege that they routinely had to work off-the-clock hours which AT&T refused to compensate.

The original lawsuit was filed in July of 2009 by a New York woman who works for AT&T Mobility. She alleged that her employer required her to spend between 10 and 15 hours per week doing unpaid work, including answering phone calls, texts and emails.

Because it appeared as though other employees might have faced similar wage-and-hour disputes, the judge tentatively allowed the case to proceed as a class-action lawsuit. Over 4,100 employees came forward with their own claims to join the lawsuit.

Unfortunately, the judge recently ruled in favor of AT&T when he decided that the case cannot proceed as a class-action lawsuit. He stated that there was "an extremely wide variety of factual and employment settings" among the 4,100 cases which would make class-action status inefficient and overwhelming to the legal system.

However, this does not mean that the case cannot proceed at all. In fact, the judge denied AT&T's motion to dismiss the case, citing that there was sufficient evidence for many individual cases to proceed. They just cannot proceed as a class-action lawsuit.

Some dishonest companies will try to withhold earned employee pay for a number of reasons. Commonly, employees are asked to work unpaid overtime or forced to work off the clock. Regardless of how much or how little money is withheld, this practice is unfair and often illegal and companies must be held accountable.

Source: Thomson Reuters Westlaw News, "AT&T wage lawsuit cannot proceed as class-action," Jonathan Stempel and Sinead Carew, 13 May 2011

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