After cafeteria workers at several school sites reported being denied their paid break time, the classified union has filed a grievance against Lodi Unified School District.
Dan Morris, labor relations representative with the California School Employees Association, says he's heard from about 10 workers at each school site who are working more than four hours without a 15-minute break.
"I started getting calls from workers that they were working too many hours without breaks. I had one in my office crying about what's happening to her," said Morris.
Some employees who work between five and 6 1/2 hours a day are receiving a 30-minute lunch break, but no rest period.
Morris says this is a breach of contract going back about three years.
For every 15-minute break period not taken, the employee is owed one hour of pay, said Bridget Wilson, job Steward and executive board member for CSEA.
The union doesn't plan to ask for the back pay as long as employees get the breaks they are entitled to, she said.
"We want employees to have the rest periods they're entitled to. We're not going to go back and make them pay if we can solve this another way," she said.
The district has denied the grievance on the grounds that it is untimely and does not clearly identify violations of the contracted terms.
"Obviously we're reading the contract differently," said Wilson.
A level I grievance was filed Jan. 9 after an informal conference to settle the issue found no solutions.
Another meeting was held between CSEA and the district on Jan. 24, but no resolution was reached.
The district denied the resolution as untimely on Feb. 9.
CSEA filed a level II grievance on Feb. 17, and another meeting was held Feb. 29, followed by a denial on March 12.
The district maintains that employees who work a 6-hour day split up by a half-hour lunch do not qualify for a break. Breaks occur during a 4-hour work period, which doesn't happen in the three hours before or after the lunch, according to a memo by Neil Young, director of personnel, to the CSEA.
Young was not available for comment as of press time.
Next week, Wilson will meet with Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer to discuss the grievance.
"I don't expect a good outcome from that," said Wilson.
From there, the process will move to either the Lodi Unified board of trustees or to arbitration to settle the issue outside of court.