I have written about call center cases, which involve allegedly unpaid working time, many times. Well, they continue to pop up. In a recent case, a class of workers claim that they were expected/required to handle customer calls after the end of their shifts, during their break times, as well as performing additional off-the-clock tasks. The case is entitled Amador et al. v. Kemper Corp., and was filed in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois.
The employees allege they worked 2-3 hours per week of this uncompensated time, The Complaint alleges, simply, that “Kemper knowingly and deliberately failed to compensate plaintiff and the putative class members for all hours worked and the proper amount of overtime each workweek on a routine and regular basis during the relevant time period.” The lead plaintiff was a customer service representative, whose duties involved answering phone calls from insured people as well as brokers, reviewing their policies/billing history and then processing payments and/or resolving the inquiries and customer issues.
The employees allege they were compelled to be at their computers and ready to service the customers at the instant their shift commenced; they claim, however, it can take a half-hour to log on to the computer and access the appropriate programs. They assert in the Complaint there is also a lengthy process to sign off at the end of the shift or for lunch/coffee breaks. They charge that this reduces their allotted break times. They also claim they had to forego their lunches or other breaks if call volume was high, or risk facing discipline.
The plaintiff also claims the workers were not compensated for fixing allegedly frequent computer issues and equipment problems. The lead plaintiff also alleges the employees were forbidden from hanging up on anyone and had to finish every call, even if a call took them beyond their assigned end time, after which they had to perform the shutting down process, which also took time. As the Complaint asserts, “regardless of the length of the calls, plaintiff and the putative class members were directed to clock out at the end of their shift before finishing any after call notes that needed to be entered, and then perform a lengthy shutdown process.”
These working time cases can creep up on an employer and sometimes it is difficult to ascertain whether preliminary or postliminary activities are compensable. Employers need to be aware, however, that if they require or compel employees, explicitly or implicitly, to come in early in order to be “ready” when their shift actually begins, that is a recipe for disaster. Have the workers come in but pay them for the time.
Or pay them later, in court…