Why an Employee's "Mini-Breaks" Are a Major Problem for Family Bakery

A former employee of a Seattle bakery claims she is owed backpay for breaks she never received.
Business Writers
April 06, 2012

Protesters are targeting a family-run bakery in Seattle, saying an employee who's been fired is owed some dough.

A group called the Seattle Solidity Network, described as a volunteer network that helps people who are "getting kicked around by an employer or landlord," is behind the protest of Borracchini's Bakery after the owner fired an employee of nine years for being rude to customers.

Remo Borracchini, owner of the nearly 90-year-old bakery in the city's Rainier Valley neighborhood, fired the employee after he started getting complaints that she was being short with customers.

"I said, 'We can't do this anymore, we just can't do this anymore,'" Borracchini told Seattle's 97.3 KIRO FM. "She said, 'You mean I'm fired?' I said, 'Yes, you are.'"

Soon after the employee was fired, she turned up at the bakery with more than 50 people to deliver a letter to Borracchini that demanded she be paid $7,901. The pay is for all the 10-minute breaks per four hours worked that, despite being required by law, the protesters claimed she had been denied.

"We hope and expect that this will be done soon, within no more than two weeks," the letter read, according to the radio station. "Otherwise, we will take further action."

Borracchini denied the woman had been forced to work straight through her shifts. He told the radio station his employees received "mini-breaks" or "breaks on the fly," which add up to 10 minutes over the course of a four-hour shift. He showed KIRO FM a surveillance video of the employee in question receiving that type of break.

The Seattle Solidity Network has posted signs about Borracchini's around the neighborhood and has planned another protest for this weekend–a holiday weekend when the bakery is expecting high demand for its goods.

"I love this business. I love the people who work here. For somebody to come in and do this, it's hurtful, it's very hurtful. Because it's unjustified," Borracchini said.

A representative for the group told the radio station they had not verified the employee's story with the bakery, but had spoken to other workers who said they also had been denied breaks.

"In this society, the people that are working for companies have much less power than the people who own companies," said the member, who went by Ryan H. "So our basic assumption, generally, is we assume that there's more of a chance that what they're saying is true than untrue."

Borracchini hopes to get an injunction to prevent the group from protesting at his business in the future, he said.

How would you handle this situation? Has anything similar happened to you?