BERKELEY (CBS SF) – Steelworkers in Berkeley are suing their employer, Pacific Steel Casting, over the legality of the lunch breaks they are given.

Pacific Steel Casting has been a fixture in Berkeley for 75 years and it’s the third largest steel foundry in the country.

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But the company has had some recent legal problems, as the U.S Department of Homeland Security is forcing it to lay off about 200 undocumented workers.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

And now, Berkeley attorney Tim Rumberger is filing a class action lawsuit accusing Pacific Steel of not giving its employees a lunch break within the first five hours, as required by California law.

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“It’s hot, 3,000 degree steel. It’s heavy work. Many of them are in hazmat equipment,” Rumberger said. “And to have to work an extra couple of hours in those kind of conditions leads to a greater risk of accident or fatigue.”

The company said it has an agreement with its workforce, to take lunch after 6 ½ hours, but Rumberger dismisses that notion.

“I’m sorry. It’s an illegal agreement,” he said. “You can’t ask someone to agree to waive something that the public policy is in place to protect them from.”

The suit seeks more than $30 million in unpaid wages and penalties for the missed meal, on behalf of a thousand current and former workers.

Pacific Steel has not returned KCBS’ calls for comment.

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