Call Center Employees: Common Victims of Wage/Hour Violations

On October 11, 2011, a call center worker formerly employed by Stream Global Services filed a class action lawsuit against the company in a federal court in Oregon for violations of federal and state wage-and-hour laws.

Stream operates a call center, providing customer relations, sales, and technical support. The suit alleges that Steam, by requiring its employees to boot up and log on to their computers before clocking in, failed to compensate employees for all of their work time. Additionally, the suit alleges that Stream, in violation of Oregon state law, issued paychecks which employees sometimes could not cash for weeks. In their lawsuit, the employees petitioned the court for class certification, compensation for unpaid wages, and attorneys' fees.

In his complaint, lead plaintiff Charles A. Burke first alleges that Stream knew that requiring employees to boot up and log on to their computers before clocking in would result in improperly compensating its employees. The complaint asserted: "[Stream is] aware that its call center employees did not record all time worked and failed to implement the necessary policies and/or practices to ensure that call center employees are fully paid all wages and overtime wages." If the allegation is proven, it is likely the court will find that Stream Global Services violated the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). The FLSA requires employers to keep records on wages, hours, and other items, as specified by the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) recordkeeping regulations, which include total hours worked each workday and each workweek. Further, the complaint cites a DOL factsheet noting that call centers frequently violate minimum wage and overtime laws, and that employees should be paid for all hours worked, including so-called "pre-shift" and "post-shift" work-related activities. The factsheet explicitly states that time employees spend starting their computers and downloading work instructions should be compensated.

The Complaint's second allegation is that Stream failed to pay employees who received paper paychecks on their paydays. For example, lead plaintiff Burke worked at Stream from June 2010 to September 2010 as an hourly employee and was issued paper checks. Mr. Burke claims he was issued at least two paychecks which the bank refused to cash due to insufficient funds in Stream's account. Apparently this prevented Mr. Burke from receiving payment until more than three weeks after termination, according to the complaint. Pursuant to Oregon state law, an employer is required to make payment for wages in a negotiable instrument that is "payable where the employee lives and works and where a sufficient amount of funds have been provided and are or will be available for the payment of the instrument when due." Additionally, state law requires employers to "establish and maintain a regular payday, at which date the employer shall pay all employees the wages due and owing to them."

A similar case filed by California call center employees of Hilton Worldwide Inc. ended in a $950,000 settlement in August. Another Hilton call center case also recentlysettled for over $700,000. Both suits allege that Hilton systematically denied earned wages and overtime pay to call center employees by not compensating them for time spent in preparatory activities like booting up computers and initializing software programs.