I have written many times about class actions for claimed working time and the great danger of these “subtle” kinds of violations that then explode on the employer.  Call centers gave been especially hard hit with this new wave of collective actions.  Another example.  A class of customer service representatives has been conditionally certified in Virginia.  Their theory is that their employer refused to pay for extra hours worked “off-the-clock.”  The case is entitled Hargrove v. Ryla Teleservices Inc., and was filed in the Eastern District of Virginia.

The employees claim that they were required to report early, before their shifts and engage in necessary work-related activities, which were not paid for.  They claimed that had to boot up the computers, plan schedules and review and respond to work-related e-mails.  If these preparatory tasks are “integrally related” to performance of the employee’s principal job duty, the tasks may be compensable, especially if the employees are “ordered” to perform these preliminary (or postliminary) duties.

Evidence of the widespread nature of this problem is that this is the seventh class action against this company, with conditional certification already granted in four cases.  The magistrate had originally recommended conditional certification be ordered; the Company appealed to the District Judge, who found the ruling was not clearly erroneous and allowed it to stand.

The Complaint has alleged that “supervisors explained to the employees that performing unpaid work activities was required because it was expected and was part of the job.”  The Complaint also estimates the amount of extra work performed as 10-20 minutes each day.  However, the workers allege that the overtime hours were not recorded or paid for.  The Complaint also maintains that the employees faced poor performance evaluation if they were not ready to take calls when their shifts started, meaning that they had to perform the preliminary work.

The key (again) is the amount of employer compulsion.  It is concerning to me, as a management side advocate, that the employees would allegedly suffer poor performance evaluations if not at their desks, ready to take calls, at their assigned start times.  This would enhance their argument that they were required to perform preliminary tasks that were tied to their main job and were mandated by their employer.  That combination equals (in all likelihood) significant liability.