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‘Tis the season for overtime litigation, as new lawsuits, settlements and pro-employee rulings pile up under the tree. In back-to-back rulings last week, federal judges gave early holiday gifts to class action plaintiffs who argue that getting ready for work should be compensated for. In Minnesota, a federal judge on Dec. 17 denied a request by Qwest Communications International Inc. to decertify a class of more than 1,500 call center employees who allege that they have not been paid for time spent booting up and shutting down their computers. The day before, a federal judge in Arkansas granted class certification to a group of former Butterball employees who allege that the poultry company didn’t pay them for time spent donning and doffing protective equipment and clothing. On the new litigation front, security guards at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 16 filed a proposed class action in New York federal court, claiming that they have routinely and deliberately been shorted on overtime payments. On the settlement front, a former “Genius Bar” employee for Apple Inc. on Dec. 15 dropped his proposed class action after the technology giant offered him an undisclosed settlement to resolve claims that it denied overtime pay to its retail store technicians. Are employees reaching their breaking point this holiday season? Actually, they’ve had it rough all year long, said Robert Allen Meister of the New York employee-rights firm Pedowitz & Meister. “There seems to be a steady stream of people who are griping that they haven’t been paid — not just overtime, but nothing at all,” said Meister, who is representing the Madison Square Garden security guards. “What we’re seeing more of is people who just have been stiffed.” He has two other lawsuits — one against a modeling agency, the other against a coffee supplier — in which employees allege that they missed paychecks for at least a few months. And Meister says he’s starting to hear more such complaints, not to mention more unpaid overtime claims. The holidays, he suspects, have something to do with it: “People are expecting presents.” Tresa Baldas can be contacted at [email protected].

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