Call Center Agents - Unpaid Wages

Call Center Agents - Unpaid Wages

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Call Center Agents - Unpaid Wages

The United States government has a responsibility to protect how employers treat their employees. Call center employees are some of the most vulnerable individuals when it comes to wage theft. Some examples of wage theft are paying workers less than minimum wage, not paying overtime wages, not allowing workers time for lunch and rest breaks, and requiring workers to continue work duties while off the clock.

Because U.S. workers are protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the practices mentioned above are illegal, and workers are given the legal means to sue employers that break the law. A call center class action lawsuit is often a legal strategy to bring a large number of workers together under one umbrella to seek compensation for the wrongs done to them by unscrupulous employers. 

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  • What is the Fair Labor Standards Act?

    In 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the FLSA into law to protect workers when wage theft, sweatshops, and low wages were rampant. Some employers would take advantage of their workers by making them work excessive hours, take work home, and even employ children. These employers had an unfair advantage over decent employers because of their abusive practices. The law is meant to ensure employers keep records of hours worked, and workers are paid at least minimum wage, nonexempt employees are eligible for overtime pay, and child labor standards are met.

  • What is the point of a class action?

    Class actions allow a large group of people (plaintiffs) who have been similarly harmed by a single defendant (in this case, an employer) to come together and fight as one against the company for compensation for wrongdoings. This legal strategy is popular because often, these employers have tremendous legal resources of their own, while an individual may not have access to resources to fight by themself. Instead, the costs of litigation are shared across all members of the class reducing financial risks.

    The courts benefit from class actions because they don't have to hear dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of individual claims for the same wrong. Class actions are also known as multi-district litigation and mass tort litigation. A class action is also beneficial to the defendant because litigation is handled in one court by one judge, and whatever the judge decides, they know they must abide by those rulings instead of having different decisions by many judges in different jurisdictions.

  • Why are call center employees vulnerable to FLSA violations?

    Call center employees are vulnerable to being cheated out of pay because of company policies such as requiring employees to perform specific tasks before and after they are officially on the clock. Companies create these "policies" which violate workers' rights under the FLSA. Here are some examples:

    • Requiring employees to start up their computers, download instructions, and sign into programs before their shift begins
    • Shutting down their workstation and programs after their shift ends
    • Reading and responding to work-related emails, chats, texts before or after their shift
    • Attending meetings off the clock
    • Waiting on hold with technical support while not being connected to work systems

    Anyone who has ever dealt with technical support knows these wait times can be excessive, and some application startups, shutdowns, and other procedures can cheat workers out of as much as 30 minutes or more per shift.

    Withholding overtime pay - Call center agents are often pressured not to consider the startup and shutdown times as official work. If that time were recorded correctly, an employee could easily be eligible for overtime wages. 

    Unlawful misclassification - Call centers, as well as other employers, often duck overtime pay by misclassifying employees as exempt by giving them bogus titles like "Team Supervisor." Fancy titles don't dictate whether an employee is exempt. If you don't truly perform the duties of a supervisor, you could be getting taken advantage of for the sake of company profit. 

  • What are some call center class action lawsuits?

    AT&T class action - In 2018, AT&T was hit by a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The plaintiffs representing the class members alleged the company failed to pay workers overtime when they worked more than 40 hours in a workweek, violating the FLSA.

    The plaintiffs say the system AT&T uses across the U.S. to track when an agent logs in and out of their terminals should demonstrate the hours agents worked but did receive compensation.

    Furthermore, the plaintiffs say that AT&T doesn't pay their agents for the time it takes to log in and out of their terminals and for attending "desk drops," which are promotional materials for the business's latest customer offers and deals that must be read before they accept calls. Additionally, the plaintiffs claim the software used to calculate payroll rounds down cheating workers out of more time. 

    Kemper Corp. collective action - In late 2021, Maria Guadalupe Amador filed an FLSA collective action lawsuit against Kemper Corp., an American insurance provider. A collective action is similar to a class action, but the certification process is much simpler. Amador claims the company cheated her and her coworkers out of wages due under federal law. 

    Again here, the company policies concerning being ready to go as soon as a shift starts disregard the significant time it can take employees to log into the call center's systems and programs. Also, when checking out for meal breaks, the system check-out procedure would cut into the break time. 

    She claims the company expected workers to work through breaks and mealtimes if the call volume was higher than usual or they would face disciplinary action. The lawsuit claims that workers were not paid for the time workers had to spend troubleshooting system failures and equipment malfunctions. Additionally, workers were expected to finish calls regardless of how long they took, often cutting into break times and past the end of their shifts, but the company failed to pay them for this time.

    T-Mobile class action - Yet another class action against T-mobile alleges the company required workers to be ready-to-go when their shift started but did not pay them for the time they spent logging into and accessing computer programs, software, applications, and servers which were fundamental to performing their jobs. Pre and post-shift work should be compensable under the FLSA. The company settled for $2 million and should benefit nearly 7,000 call center representatives who were not paid for the overtime the company's policies were responsible for disregarding.

  • What can I expect from a class action lawsuit?

    A call center class action lawsuit can be started by just one person or a small group of people affected by the same financial harm. Those starting the class action are typically the lead plaintiffs and represent the members of the class. To qualify for a class action, the following conditions must be met:

    • The potential class number must be so large that it would be impractical for all members to participate actively (which is why there are lead plaintiffs.)
    • Questions of law or fact are common to the class
    • The claims of the lead plaintiffs are typical of the claims of the rest of the class
    • The lead plaintiffs will fairly and responsibly protect the interests of the class

    Once the class action is filed by your attorney, a judge will decide whether enough people have been harmed to certify the class and move the action forward. Once that happens, other call center workers who've been harmed will be able to join the class.

  • Is joining a class action lawsuit worth it?

    When you join a class action lawsuit, it shouldn't cost you anything upfront. That's because our labor law attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means if we don't win compensation for the wage theft you and the other members of the class have been victims of, we don't get paid. If you saw an advertisement about a pending class action, we can help you join the other class members free of charge. 

    However, if you've been the victim of wage theft, only an experienced personal injury lawyer can tell you if joining in on a class action is your best move. It may be that you have more significant damages than others and, thus, should be filing an individual lawsuit against the call center. An important thing to note is that you lose your right to pursue compensation individually once you join a class.

    Once a class action is settled, whatever award is won is divided somewhat equally amongst the members of the class. The lead plaintiffs usually get more because of the time and effort they put into the lawsuit. Some members of the class could get more than others, depending on the level of harm. For example, in a class action against a defective product manufacturer, severely injured people should get a higher portion of the award than those who incurred minor injuries. 

  • Why choose Morgan & Morgan attorneys for my labor and employment lawsuit?

    The attorneys at Morgan & Morgan have filed more employment lawsuits than any other firm, including cases for wage theft and employee misclassification, which can cheat workers out of their overtime pay. We believe in protecting the rights of employees and upholding the laws the FLSA provides U.S. workers. 

    During our more than 30 years of practicing personal injury law, we've learned that employers who practice wage theft often engage in other illegal activities such as discrimination. Women, foreign-born individuals, and African Americans are victims of wage theft far more than others. 

    If you're concerned that you'll face retaliation for a wage theft lawsuit, you should know that it is also illegal, and your employer can be sued for that, too. When it's time to recover your hard-earned pay, our lawyers are ready to help. Contact us today for a free and confidential case evaluation. No employer should take advantage of their workers just so they can further enrich themselves.

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