December 22nd, 2011

National Law Journal

War Zone Security Guards Claim Breach of Employment Contracts

A U.S. government contractor providing security guards at military bases and other sites in Iraq and Afghanistan has been sued for failing to pay overtime wages and provide meal and rest breaks to its employees.

The lawsuit, filed on Dec. 19, seeks back wages and compensation for missed breaks on behalf of an estimated 300 to 400 armed guards employed in Iraq during the past two years by SOC Inc., which is based in Minden, Nev.

“It was supposed to be six days a week, 12-hour days,” said attorney Scott Gizer, a partner at Los Angeles-based Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae, which filed the suit in Clark County, Nev.’s Eighth Judicial District Court. “In reality, they were working closer to 13- or 14-hour days, seven days a week.”

The suit alleges that their time sheets were falsified to show that they worked 12-hour shifts for six days a week, he said.

A call to Michael Littlejohn, general counsel of SOC, was not returned.

The lead plaintiff is Karl Risinger, who worked at SOC as an armed guard at a military base in Iraq from March 8, 2010, to March 8, 2011. When Risinger signed the SOC employment contract under Nevada law, he believed he was going to be paid a $65,000 salary.

“However, when Plaintiff and others similarly situated arrived in Iraq, they were informed that the $65,000 so-called ‘salary’ was, in fact, calculated based upon a $17.36 hourly rate,” the suit says.

The class comprises five subclasses: Those denied overtime wages; those who worked more than eight hours a day without a 30-minute meal period; those who worked more than eight hours a day who didn’t get a rest period; those with unpaid wages and compensation when their employment ended; and those who didn’t receive accurate records of their wages.

Under Nevada law, companies must provide an employee with a 30-minute meal period for each eight hours worked, Gizer said. They also are entitled to a 10-minute rest break for each four hours worked.

“There were set hours for when the mess hall would be open, and our guys would not be able to access that during their shift, so they’d have to, before their shift started, run, eat and then start their 12-hour shift,” he said.

Source: Amanda Bronstad, National Law Journal