Class Action Approved in Third AT&T Lawsuit

Georgia Federal Court Reaches Same Decision as Courts in California & Connecticut

Field Managers in Nine Southern States Get Green Light to Pursue Their Share of $1 Billion in Unpaid Overtime

Aug 17, 2011, 09:00 ET from Sanford Wittels & Heisler LLP

ATLANTA, Aug. 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Field managers for BellSouth Telecommunications received certification of their collective action on behalf of themselves and similarly situated employees from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta today.

The decision by Chief U.S. District Judge Julie E. Carnes applies to the company's so-called "First Levels", who worked for the telecom giant in a 9-state region comprising Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina and Kentucky. Her ruling means that First Levels in nearly every state where AT&T and its subsidiaries do business are now eligible to participate in class actions seeking some $1 billion in unpaid overtime wages.

The Georgia ruling is the third recent favorable class and collective certification decision achieved by Sanford Wittels & Heisler for Level One Managers. It follows two decisions in late 2009 and 2010 that opened the door for class actions against AT&T's Connecticut subsidiary Southern New England Telephone Company (SNET) and AT&T's California subsidiary, PacBell.

The SNET case is scheduled for trial on October 3 of this year where AT&T's operating company has more than $60 million of exposure in that one case alone.

All three suits allege AT&T and its subsidiaries violated the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state laws by carrying out a company-wide policy to wrongfully misclassify thousands of its Level One Managers exempt from overtime wages.

"Judge Carnes' decision gives the green light for aggrieved Level One Managers working for BellSouth to join their colleagues across the country to pursue the compensation they deserve for the all the overtime hours they've been expected to work for free," said Steven L. Wittels, Co-Lead Class Counsel.

AT&T, the eighth largest of the Fortune 500, has revenues of over $100 billion a year and employs 294,600 workers worldwide. First Level "Managers" are ground troops in the multi-billion dollar operation, who perform primarily clerical duties and relay information between company management and its technicians in the field. AT&T and its operating subsidiaries require these employees to work upwards of 60 hours a week, but claim that these workers do not deserve overtime pay.

"AT&T consistently violates federal and state laws in compensating its First Levels," said co-Lead Counsel Janette Wipper. "Although their job title includes the term "manager," these individuals manage nothing and have no management responsibilities. The company uses this job title merely as a means to extract from these employees more hours of work, without providing them any additional compensation."

Jeremy Heisler, Co-Lead Counsel in the New York office, emphasizes that "the ruling is significant because the Court certified a collective action encompassing all 9 states where AT&T operates its business through BellSouth. This means that workers from the entire region can now join the suit."

The three class action complaints charge that against AT&T and its subsidiaries fail to pay Level One employees overtime wages for work in excess of 40 hours a week and eight hours a day; fail to provide these workers with mandatory meal periods and rest breaks; and fail to keep accurate records of the hours these employees work. The suits demand AT&T, PacBell, and BellSouth immediately stop their unlawful pay practices and pay all Level Ones the unpaid wages due to them plus all damages permitted by state and federal wage and hour laws.

Representing the Plaintiffs in these actions are Steven L. Wittels, Jeremy Heisler, Janette Wipper and Andrew Melzer in Sanford Wittels & Heisler's New York and San Francisco offices; David Sanford in the firm's Washington, D.C.; Michael Ram and Karl Olson of Ram & Olson, Of Counsel to the firm in San Francisco; Ed Buckley of Buckley & Klein, LLP in Atlanta, Georgia; and Edmond Clark in Madison, Connecticut.

About Sanford Wittels & Heisler

Sanford Wittels & Heisler is a renowned class action law firm with offices in New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and New Jersey that specializes in employment discrimination, wage and hour, consumer and complex corporate class action litigation, and has obtained more than a hundred million dollars in recoveries for individuals represented in class action cases nationwide. The firm also represents individual clients in employment, employment discrimination, sexual harassment, whistleblower, public accommodations, commercial, medical malpractice, mass tort and personal injury matters. Individuals with knowledge of AT&T's wage practices are encouraged to contact Sanford Wittels & Heisler at: (646) 723-2947, (415) 375-8903, or (202) 742-7448

SOURCE Sanford Wittels & Heisler LLP