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Worker Fired for Working During Lunch

Employers often complain of lazy workers, but in this bizarro world of corporate human resources management, a woman was fired for working during her lunch break:

Smiley, 48, punched out of work for lunch Jan. 28, 2010, but remained at her desk to finish a project assigned by a manager because she did not plan to eat that day, she said.

Smiley, who had passed her 10-year anniversary with the company more than a month before, said another manager told her it was time for her to go to lunch and step away from her desk, but she refused. That manager observed Smiley working on a spreadsheet on her computer, answering the phone and responding to questions by people who approached her desk, according to a filing from the appellate court of Illinois. [...]

The company's human resources director then became involved, explaining that hourly non-exempt employees were required to take a 30-minute lunch break, a policy that had been in the company handbook for 10 years, according to the filing. Not following the policy would be a violation of Illinois' labor laws, the HR director said.

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"If she punched out then she is working off the clock. She can do whatever she wants with her break."

There are generally rules about working off the clock as well. I'm a federal employee and it's literally against the law for me to do work without pay. Her company will have rules concerning what she can do with her computer on a break. If she's on her own time then she may ought not view confidential client information, etc.
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She can do what she wants except keep on working when her manager tells her not to. Plain stupid.

Company is in a tough spot. Her manager apparently assigned her a project. She felt that she needed to work through her lunch to finish it. This could imply that they gave her so much work that she didn't feel like she could finish without working through her lunch. In effect, she would feel forced to work through her lunch because of the work load, and the company is at fault. If she makes it look like her employer is breaking the law, they have no choice but to protect themselves.

In my opinion,, the likely situation is that she works through her lunch in order to justify leaving a half hour earlier each day.

Other workers probably complained about her making her own hours, and if everybody started working through their lunch, then the company would be in really hot water.

Her problem is she wasn't just "working on an assignment"; she was doing all of her ordinary work, too. hard for her to prove that she just didn't listen to her boss.
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If this was her only trouble during ten years with the company, it was dumb to let her go but I understand why it is against the rules. If it wasn't, unethical managers would play the old "I didn't tell them to work off the clock, they did it on their own" game, favoring employees who do work off the clock and giving poor reviews and the worst tasks to those who do not.
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You cannot "do whatever you want" on your federally mandated break time. The government will tell you when you can and cannot work and hurt somebody if not obeyed, so don't blame the company for covering their a**.
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She broke the law, and disobeyed an order from her superior, this is not newsworthy. Just another employee who thinks rules don't apply to her.
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Meanwhile there are children working 14hrs shifts, who have to share a bowl of cold rice porridge on the job for lunch, in factories that are a 3hrs walk from their home.
Really! The US will never cease to amaze me with their narrow view of the world.
If you consider all countries as a family, the US are the ridiculous jock big brother that's not too bright but manage to bully it's way into the world and into the life of its citizens.
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