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Are Call Center Employees Covered Under The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) ?

What is a call center?

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. Clients may include mail-order catalog houses, telemarketing companies, computer product help desks, banks, financial services and insurance groups, transportation and freight handling firms, hotels, and information technology (IT) companies.

What are the requirements for a call center to be covered by the FLSA?

If the annual dollar volume of a call center’s sales or business is $500,000 or more, and the enterprise has at least two employees, all employees of the enterprise are covered by the FLSA on an “enterprise” basis. An enterprise may consist of one establishment, or it may be made up of multiple establishments.  Additionally, the FLSA also provides an “individual employee” basis of coverage. If the gross sales or volume of business done does not meet the requisite dollar volume of $500,000 annually, employees may still be covered if they individually engage in interstate commerce, the production of goods for interstate commerce, or in an occupation closely related and directly essential to such production. Interstate commerce includes such activities as transacting business via interstate telephone calls, the Internet or the U.S. Mail (such as handling insurance claims), ordering or receiving goods from an out-of-state supplier, or handling the accounting or bookkeeping for such activities.

Do call center employees qualify for overtime pay under the FLSA ?

Yes, in most cases. Covered nonexempt employees are entitled to be paid at least the federal minimum wage as well as overtime pay at time and one-half their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. (This may not apply to certain executive, administrative, and professional employees, including computer professionals and outside sales people).

What are some typical problems that happen at call centers?

Hours Worked:  Covered employees must be paid for all hours worked in a workweek. In general, “hours worked” includes all time an employee must be on duty, or on the employer’s premises or at any other prescribed place of work, from the beginning of the first principal activity of the workday to the end of the last principal activity of the workday. Also included is any additional time the employee is allowed (i.e., suffered or permitted) to work. An example of the first principal activity of the day for agents/specialists/representatives working in call centers includes starting the computer to download work instructions, computer applications, and work-related emails.

Rest and Meal Periods: Rest periods of short duration, usually 20 minutes or less, are common in the industry (and promote employee efficiency), and must be counted as hours worked. Bona fide meal periods (typically 30 minutes or more) generally need not be compensated as work time as long as the employee is relieved from duty for the purpose of eating a regular meal.

Recordkeeping: A daily and weekly record of all hours worked, including time spent in pre-shift and post-shift job-related activities, must be kept.

Salaried Employees: A salary, by itself, does not exempt employees coverage of the FLSA. Whether employees are exempt from  minimum wage and/or overtime depends on their job duties and responsibilities as well as the way compensation is made. Sometimes, in call centers, salaried employees do not meet all the requirements specified by the regulations to be considered as exempt.

There have been some lawsuits brought recently to recover unpaid overtime pay and pay for work done off the clock. For example,  Sprint/United Managment Co. agreed to a $9 million settlement for overtime pay and APAC Customer Services, Inc. agreed to a $4 million payment for overtime to cover time spent logging into the computer system, performing clerical duties and reviewing company notices prior to logging into the company’s timekeeping system.

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8 Telemarketing Employees in Tampa Who Were Misclassified are Awarded $34,235 in Back Pay

If you think you may have a claim or would just like more information about wage labor laws please call  (954) 946-8130 or  submit the confidential “contact us” form below which will arrive at our law offices instantly.    If our office decides to accept your case and we enter into a written, signed retainer agreement you will not have to pay anything unless we win your case. Appointments are available at various locations in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties as well as many other counties throughout Florida.

US Labor Department finds Knoxville, Tenn., misclassfication, security company owes $62,000 in back wages to 34 guards misclassified as independent contractors

Jan. 9, 2012

Custom Security Solutions Inc. has agreed to pay $62,038 in back wages to 34 security guards after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found the employees were improperly classified as independent contractors and consequently denied minimum wage and overtime wages due under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Custom Security Solutions provides guard services for Premium Coal Co. at its mining sites and washing and loadout plants in Anderson, Scott and Campbell counties.

“Increasingly, employers are categorizing their employees as independent contractors to avoid paying them in compliance with the FLSA, as well as other federal, state and local statutes,” said Sandra Sanders, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Nashville District Office. “Misclassification costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year in uncollected employment taxes, and gives unscrupulous employers an unfair advantage. The Wage and Hour Division is vigorously pursuing corrective action in those situations when workers are, in fact, employees, to ensure that they are paid required wages and level the playing field for employers who play by the rules.”

The division’s investigators determined that the 34 employees were paid a “straight time” rate for all hours worked instead of time and one-half their hourly rates for hours over 40, as required by the FLSA. This practice resulted in the employees being owed $61,937 in overtime back wages. Additionally, one of the employees was not paid the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, and is also owed $101 in minimum wage payments.

In addition to paying the back wages, the company agreed to maintain future compliance by ensuring employees are properly classified and compensated for all hours worked in accordance with the FLSA.

The misclassification of employees as independent contractors is an alarming trend, particularly in industries that often employ low-wage, vulnerable workers and in which the Wage and Hour Division historically has found significant wage violations. The practice is a serious threat both to employees entitled to good and safe jobs, as well as to employers who obey the law. Misclassified employees often are deprived of overtime and minimum wages, and are forced to pay taxes that their employers are legally obligated to pay. Misclassification also creates a competitive disadvantage for employers who comply with the law.

Under the FLSA, an employment relationship must be distinguished from a strictly contractual one. An employee as distinguished from a person who is engaged in a business of his or her own  is one who, as a matter of economic reality, follows the usual path of an employee and is dependent on the business that he or she serves. For more information, visit http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs13.htm.

The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their hourly rates of pay for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Additionally, accurate records of employees’ wages, hours and other conditions of employment must be maintained.

Our firm will prosecute class  and collective actions on behalf of aggrieved employees. We will undertake any litigation arising from this investigation on a contingent fee basis. If a lawsuit is filed as a result of this investigation, we will only seek payment of any fees from recovery generated by the lawsuit. This means any fee we receive will be paid by the defendant or out of any settlement or judgment recovered.  Likewise, all costs will be advanced by us. If an action is filed and not successful, you would not be responsible for any of our fees or costs. If you wish to discuss this investigation and any potential legal options you may have, or if you have any questions please contact our law office.

You may contact the Law Offices of Rose H. Robbins for a free consultation to see if you have a case for unpaid overtime or minimum wages by calling (954) 946-8130 or by filling out the confidential “contact us” form below which will arrive at our law offices instantly. You may email us too: rose (at) roserobbins.com   If our office decides to accept your case and we enter into a written, signed retainer agreement you will not have to pay anything unless we win your case. Appointments are available at various locations in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties.

Car Wash is Sued For Alleged Overtime Wage Violations by City of San Francisco

Posted by FLWageLawyers.com on October 12, 2011

San Francisco is suing a car wash company, Tower Car Wash, for millions of dollars in back wages, penalties and interest because it allegedly failed to pay workers pursuant to wage laws. The suit claims that the company had employees report for work before they were allowed to begin work. This was done in violation of state and local wage laws. Further, employees were kept in a waiting area until the car wash decided they were needed. However, these employees were not paid for that time.  Read newspaper article here. http://bit.ly/qsWylT

This car wash case addresses the question of what constitutes compensable time under the FLSA (“Act”)?

The Act requires that employees must receive at least the minimum wage and may not be employed for more than 40 hours in a week without receiving at least one and one-half times their regular rates of pay for the overtime hours. The amount employees should receive cannot be determined without knowing the number of hours worked.

How is  “Employ” defined?

By statutory definition the term “employ” includes “to suffer or permit to work.” The workweek ordinarily includes all time during which an employee is necessarily required to be on the employer’s premises, on duty or at a prescribed work place. “Workday”, in general, means the period between the time on any particular day when such employee commences his/her “principal activity” and the time on that day at which he/she ceases such principal activity or activities. The workday may therefore be longer than the employee’s scheduled shift, hours, tour of duty, or production line time.

What is the Application of the Principles?

Employees “Suffered or Permitted” to work: Work not requested but suffered or permitted to be performed is work time that must be paid for by the employer. For example, an employee may voluntarily continue to work at the end of the shift to finish an assigned task or to correct errors. The reason is immaterial. The hours are work time and are compensable.

Waiting Time: Whether waiting time is hours worked under the Act depends upon the particular circumstances. Generally, the facts may show that the employee was engaged to wait (which is work time) or the facts may show that the employee was waiting to be engaged (which is not work time). For example, a secretary who reads a book while waiting for dictation or a fireman who plays checkers while waiting for an alarm is working during such periods of inactivity. These employees have been “engaged to wait.”

On-Call Time: An employee who is required to remain on call on the employer’s premises is working while “on call.” An employee who is required to remain on call at home, or who is allowed to leave a message where he/she can be reached, is not working (in most cases) while on call. Additional constraints on the employee’s freedom could require this time to be compensated.

Rest and Meal Periods: Rest periods of short duration, usually 20 minutes or less, are common in industry (and promote the efficiency of the employee) and are customarily paid for as working time. These short periods must be counted as hours worked. Unauthorized extensions of authorized work breaks need not be counted as hours worked when the employer has expressly and unambiguously communicated to the employee that the authorized break may only last for a specific length of time, that any extension of the break is contrary to the employer’s rules, and any extension of the break will be punished. Bona fide meal periods (typically 30 minutes or more) generally need not be compensated as work time. The employee must be completely relieved from duty for the purpose of eating regular meals. The employee is not relieved if he/she is required to perform any duties, whether active or inactive, while eating.

Sleeping Time and Certain Other Activities: An employee who is required to be on duty for less than 24 hours is working even though he/she is permitted to sleep or engage in other personal activities when not busy. An employee required to be on duty for 24 hours or more may agree with the employer to exclude from hours worked bona fide regularly scheduled sleeping periods of not more than 8 hours, provided adequate sleeping facilities are furnished by the employer and the employee can usually enjoy an uninterrupted night’s sleep. No reduction is permitted unless at least 5 hours of sleep is taken.

Lectures, Meetings and Training Programs: Attendance at lectures, meetings, training programs and similar activities need not be counted as working time only if four criteria are met, namely: it is outside normal hours, it is voluntary, not job related, and no other work is concurrently performed.

Travel Time: The principles which apply in determining whether time spent in travel is compensable time depends upon the kind of travel involved.

Home to Work Travel: An employee who travels from home before the regular workday and returns to his/her home at the end of the workday is engaged in ordinary home to work travel, which is not work time.

Home to Work on a Special One Day Assignment in Another City: An employee who regularly works at a fixed location in one city is given a special one day assignment in another city and returns home the same day. The time spent in traveling to and returning from the other city is work time, except that the employer may deduct/not count that time the employee would normally spend commuting to the regular work site.

Travel That is All in a Day’s Work: Time spent by an employee in travel as part of their principal activity, such as travel from job site to job site during the workday, is work time and must be counted as hours worked.

Travel Away from Home Community: Travel that keeps an employee away from home overnight is travel away from home. Travel away from home is clearly work time when it cuts across the employee’s workday. The time is not only hours worked on regular working days during normal working hours but also during corresponding hours on nonworking days. As an enforcement policy the Division will not consider as work time that time spent in travel away from home outside of regular working hours as a passenger on an airplane, train, boat, bus, or automobile.

What are some typical problems?

Problems arise when employers fail to recognize and count certain hours worked as compensable hours. For example, an employee who remains at his/her desk while eating lunch and regularly answers the telephone and refers callers is working. This time must be counted and paid as compensable hours worked because the employee has not been completely relieved from duty.

If you or someone you know is not being fully compensated for all the time you work, or your employer has improperly calculated your hours worked, then you may be entitled to overtime and additional compensation. At the Law Offices of Rose H. Robbins we handle employment disputes.  Our office focuses on disputes dealing with overtime claims and wage and hour law violations, including violations resulting from improper wage and overtime calculations. We represent employees in wage and hour violations throughout Florida.

You may contact the Law Offices of Rose H. Robbins for a free consultation to see if you have a case for unpaid overtime or minimum wages by calling (954) 946-8130 or by filling out the confidential form below which will arrive at our law offices instantly. If our office decides to accept your case and we enter into a written, signed retainer agreement you will not have to pay anything unless we win your case. Appointments are available at various locations in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties.