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Massachusetts Factory Workers Allege Overtime Pay Violations

BOSTON (AP) _ A company targeted in an immigration raid in March tried to avoid paying overtime by making it appear workers were being paid by two separate companies, according to a lawsuit.

Workers at Michael Bianco Inc. in New Bedford allege they were paid with two separate checks, one from Michael Bianco for day shifts and another from a bogus second company called Front Line Defense for evening shifts, making it appear they had not exceeded the 40-hour-a-week mark that triggers overtime pay.

``It was clearly a deliberately created fiction,'' said Audrey Richardson, a lawyer with Greater Boston Legal Services, which is representing 500 current and former workers in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The company and owner Francesco Insolia declined comment on the lawsuit.

``Neither Mr. Insolia nor the company has been charged with any labor, safety or workplace violations, and we have not seen the GBLS suit,'' Michael Bianco spokesman Douglas Bailey said.

The lawsuit also alleges that Michael Bianco had so few time clocks that workers waited in long lines to clock in, then were illegally docked 15 to 30 minutes pay if they were even one or two minutes late. Workers also were not paid for time spent waiting in line to clock out _ sometimes up to a half hour, the lawsuit alleges.

Employees who questioned the loss of pay were told it was company policy, or that they could find work elsewhere, attorneys for the workers said.

Richardson said the lawsuit was filed on behalf of both illegal and legal workers, and that the law was ``crystal clear'' that all employees must be properly compensated for time worked, regardless of their immigration status.

More than 360 workers, mostly Central American women, were arrested by federal immigration agents in a March 6 raid at the factory, which makes equipment and apparel for the U.S. military.

The raid prompted criticism from immigrant advocates, who said the arrests separated single parents from young children and ripped apart the community. Federal officials said no children were left stranded by the raid, and that they were simply enforcing the law.
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