Posted June 2nd, 2011.
By Luther Turmelle, North Bureau Chief
BRIDGEPORT — A U.S. District Court judge has rebuffed attempts by AT&T to throw out a class action lawsuit by a group of the company’s Connecticut employees alleging violations of state and federal wage and hour provisions.
Thursday’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Janet C. Hall clears the way for a trial to begin in the suit, which was filed in June 2007.
The trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 3, said Jeremy Heisler, one of the lead attorneys with the New York City law firm Sanford Wittels & Heisler, which is representing the AT&T employees.
AT&T workers in Connecticut who are classified as “level one” managers and are part of the suit here could ultimately receive up to $50 million in withheld overtime pay if the jury decides in their favor.
“This is a very satisfying victory,” Heisler said Thursday. “I think the key element in the judge’s decision is that she read every piece of evidence that the plaintiffs submitted and she thought (they) had very little discretion in how they handled their jobs. She felt that (they) are better characterized as having the duties of an administrative assistant.”
AT&T spokesman Chuck Coursey said the company declined comment on the ruling.
The outcome of a jury trial in Connecticut could have a far-reaching impact on the company across the country, said Steven Wittels, a partner with the firm.
Wittels’ firm filed lawsuits similar to the one in Connecticut on behalf of 5,000 AT&T level one managers in late 2009 at two other AT&T subsidiaries: Pacific Bell and BellSouth Telecommunications.
“Those cases are still in the discovery phase, but what happens in Connecticut will clearly have ramifications on those cases,” Wittels said.