Brinksmanship

A lawsuit asks the question: Just how quickly should an armored-car guard be forced to pee?

With all that cash to constantly guard, you'd probably expect Brink's armored-car crews to rush through their bathroom breaks. What you might not expect is that company policy demands it.

According to Brink's, its employees are allowed to take piss breaks. They just can't look as if they are.

As a company notice says, "The security and operational rules and procedures applicable to Brink's employees assigned to work on armored vehicle crews and in other positions remain in effect at all times during such break periods." Furthermore: "Keep in mind the fact that you must not only be alert, you must look alert. Only in this way can you convince the criminal element that it would be foolhardy to attack your crew or premises."

In other words, not only does a guard have to speed-pee while watching the guy at the next urinal, he has to note it in his log.

To Brink's guard Megan Pellino, that "must be" and "must look" alert standard seemed like too much to ask of employees just trying to empty their vaults. (It also violated state law, she claimed.) So in 2007 she filed a class-action lawsuit against the company on behalf of herself and other crew members who worked the armored trucks in Seattle and Tacoma.

Last year, a judge agreed with Pellino, rejecting Brink's argument that vigilance during breaks required only a "passive state" of alert. Noting that a former branch manager said it was the "culture" of Brink's to not take breaks, King County Superior Court Judge Michael Trickey found that "Even when crew members went to the bathroom, it was a hurried process." He awarded 182 messengers and drivers damages in the amount of $874,775.70 in back pay, $422,536.75 in prejudgment interest, and $799,155.98 in attorney fees and costs.

And last week the state Court of Appeals upheld that $2 million decision, turning back Brink's attempt to overturn Trickey's ruling. The "trial court's unchallenged findings in this case establish that Brink's drivers and messengers were always engaged in work activities," the appeals court said, "and even if the crews had the opportunity to take breaks, there was insufficient time."

To which those guards at the urinal (and those, like Pellino, in the stall) can only say "Ahhhh."

 
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