CLASS ACTION SOUGHT

Greater Omaha Packing Co. is facing a federal lawsuit seeking class-action status on behalf of what will probably work out to more than 1,000 employees.

The legal complaint says the workers were cheated out of wages.

The suit was filed late last week in U.S. District Court in Omaha by Frederick Baglio, who the complaint says worked as a boiler room operator at the company's main Omaha production plant.

Baglio, the suit says, did not take breaks for meals or other reasons but was automatically clocked out by Greater Omaha Packing for a 30-minute lunch break.

The suit says Baglio "regularly worked in excess of 50 hours per week, for seven consecutive days, and did not break for lunch. ... He was not paid all compensation to which he was entitled."

All told, Baglio says his pay packet was short by 2.5 hours of compensation a week — and so was everyone else's.

Attempts to reach Greater Omaha Packing President Henry Davis via email and telephone voicemail messages were unsuccessful Tuesday, as were attempts to reach Robert Cowan, the attorney for Baglio, of Houston's Bailey Peavey Bailey law firm.

The lawsuit alleges violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and asks the judge to extend the suit to include all current and former hourly plant employees in the three years preceding the suit's filing.

Certification or denial of a class action typically requires weeks or months of extended legal argument as each side attempts to convince the judge that it is right.

A large number of Omaha metro-area people could be affected if the lawsuit proceeds. Greater Omaha Packing employs more than 1,000 people, according to the suit, the majority of whom operate in the main plant on L Street.

The company's website says it has annual sales of more than $1 billion.

The lawsuit says Baglio was far from alone in working unpaid hours — skipping lunch but being clocked out anyway. The suit says it is common procedure for the people who process 15,000 steers a week into steaks and roasts, those "responsible for plant maintenance and various plant processing and packing" operations.

"Omaha Packing's failure to properly compensate plaintiff and members of the class results, upon information and belief, from a generally applicable policy and/or practice," the lawsuit says.

The suit asks for a jury trial, unpaid wages, money damages equal to the unpaid wages plus interest, and legal fees.

Contact the writer: 402-444-3197, russell.hubbard@owh.com

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