Call Center Wage and Overtime Violations

Call centers have changed the way the American public communicates with various industries since the 1960s. Large corporations rely on call centers to handle orders, customer service, product and technical support, and almost anything that can be done over the phone.

Yet, with these practices in place to help the company increase revenue, the success has had little impact on call centers. The very workers who make it possible are often cheated out appropriate wages, overtime, and/or subject to other Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) violations.

Common call center wage and hour violations

If the influx of FLSA violation lawsuits are any indication, employees of call centers are the most likely to be cheated out of their wages. However, with this trend in settlements, it appears that civil lawsuits can be the solution for call center employees to recoup the loss of wages.

What is a call center?

According to the US Department of Labor, a call center is “a central customer service operation where agents (often called customer care specialists or customer service representatives) handle telephone calls for their company or on behalf of a client.”

A call center can be tech support specialists, hotel booking agents, telemarketers, and more. It’s not easy dealing with the public, especially when it comes to dissatisfied customers. The job location itself can often be uncomfortable as well.

Many call center employees are forced to work in cramped quarters and expected to deal with sometimes abusive customers, all while maintaining a positive attitude. Employers tirelessly monitor employee interactions in order to ultimately make sure the customer is satisfied.

Is your call center covered by the FLSA?

A company is considered an “enterprise” if it has two or more employees and makes $500,000 or more in sales or applicable business, according to the FLSA.

Many “customer management” jobs are sent overseas, but the United States is till home to thousands of domestic call centers. Major insurance companies, hotels, banks, and insurance companies have call centers, such as:

  • American Express
  • Bank of America
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • Citigroup
  • Fidelity Investments
  • JPMorgan Chase
  • MasterCard
  • UnitedHealth Group
  • Visa
  • Wells Fargo

Other call center companies offer outsourcing for their customer service calls, such as:

  • Alorica
  • Conduit Global
  • Convergys
  • DialAmerica
  • EchoStar
  • Expert Global Solutions (EGS)
  • GC Services
  • iQor
  • Qualfon
  • Sabre Holdings Corp.
  • Sitel
  • StarTek
  • Sykes Enterprises
  • Teleperformance
  • TeleTech
  • Xerox

If the company you work for makes less than $500,000 annually, and you individually engage in interstate commerce, you’re probably covered by the FLSA. Calls to other states, as well as receiving calls from other states, is considered “interstate commerce” under FLSA. This also includes the internet or US Mail, as well as ordering products from out-of-state companies.

Is your job eligible for wage and overtime pay under FLSA?

Most call center employees are entitled to the FLSA guarantee of: a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, and overtime pay at one-and-a-half times their “regular rate” for hours worked over 40 in a workweek.

Even employees who make a salary are sometimes protected by the FLSA and entitled to overtime.

Common call center wage violations

The most common wage theft that affects call center employees is when the employer fails to pay them for all hours worked. The FLSA requires all nonexempt employees be compensated fully for their hours of labor.

Generally, your hours worked begin from the “first principal activity of the workday” and end with the “last principal activity of the workday.” In a call center, this may include booting up a computer at the start of your day.

Turning off the computer then, is essential to the performance of your job, and you should be compensated for that time. Catching up on emails, maintaining software, or finishing up paperwork at the end of your shift, is all work under the FLSA and you are entitled to that time and wage.

Civil action helps recover unpaid wages

Call centers are notorious for having employees perform duties off the clock.

In 2009, Sprint settled a handful of FLSA wage and hour violation lawsuits to the tune of nearly $9 million. In three class action lawsuits, customer service representatives claimed Spring failed to pay them for essential work both before and after shifts, as well as meal breaks. Notes taken after calls with customers weren’t even accounted for in their hours worked, according to the plaintiffs.

In 2011, nearly $1.5 million in back wages was paid out to almost 3,500 call center employees. Allegedly Farmers had routinely failed to count their necessary “first principal activities” such as booting up a computer and logging into the phone system. These employees said they lost 30 minutes of compensable time every day when this happened.

The Department of Labor found Farmers has engaged in “significant and systemic violations” of the Fair Labor and Standards Act. To read more about it, click here.

Call center workers turn to FLSA lawsuits

The above are only two examples of how call center employees have been cheated out of their wages. This is a rampant issue, and many employers don’t think their employees have the right to overtime wages. But you do!

If you haven’t been paid for turning on your computer, reading company notices, logging notes, checking email on the company network, you may be entitled to file a lawsuit against your employer.

 

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