Add the ability to eat quickly to the list of skills needed to work at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
In a dispute that has sent pangs of resentment — and perhaps hunger — across the agency, the SEC’s union chief has warned workers to keep lunch breaks to a half hour or risk being disciplined as “absent without leave.”
“Despite the fact that most SEC employees are often told that they may take an hour for lunch, technically, we are only entitled to thirty minutes,” wrote Greg Gilman, president of the union, in an e-mail sent to SEC workers last week. “Do not fall into the trap of believing that because you are a ‘professional’ the rules do not apply to you.”
Fueling the union’s angst is a new SEC plan to require the use of security cards that record the times people enter and exit the building in its offices across the country, a move Gilman wrote would “substantially increase surveillance.” He said that data from the system in place at the Washington headquarters is increasingly used in cases against employees accused of skipping out of work.
SEC officials said the worries are overblown. While the security system does keep data on employees’ comings and goings, the agency doesn’t check the information unless there is a reasonable complaint that attendance violations are occurring, said John Nester, an SEC spokesman. Those tips come from both managers and co-workers, he said.