Over the last ten years or so, there have been a rash of class actions involving workers employed at various call centers. These cases involve the performance of work prior to the shift and after, so-called preliminary and postliminary work and are very troublesome. A recent settlement, involving 300 workers, again highlights this continuing conundrum. In this latest episode, the plaintiffs seek court approval of a $322,000 settlement with their employer for boot-up time. The case is entitled Brown v. PSCU Inc. and was filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Michigan.
Naturally, the Company did not admit any wrongdoing or violation of law; that is the biggest thing that an employer garners from settling these cases. The workers, through their lead representative, chose to take some money up front (i.e., settlement) than stay with what would certainly be a protracted, years long litigation, which would involve “enormous amounts of judicial and counsel resources,” according to their motion papers. Approximately $200,000 would be distributed among the 368 class members, ranging from $25-3000.00.
In December 2022, a federal judge granted conditional certification to a class of these workers; the employer is a customer service group whose clientele are credit unions. The workers had sued on the theory that their preliminary time starting their computers and logging in to work-related programs prior to their official day commencing, was working time. They claimed this start-up process could take as much as twenty (20) minutes per day.
The plaintiff alleges that the workers had to answer phone calls immediately upon their clocking in. He also alleges that they could be disciplined if they failed to do so. Thus, he claims, they were compelled to report early to perform this preliminary task. He also claimed that the requirement to be booted up on time meant that workers had to cut their lunch break short in order to boot up and be ready to answer calls when their lunch period ended.
Spend a nickel to save a dollar—that is (and has been always) my advice on these call center employee cases. The simple truth is that it appears that the boot-up process is an integral and indispensable part of their jobs, and they cannot perform their primary job without first engaging in these activities. The fact that they possibly faced discipline if they were not ready to take calls at their starting times lends further support to the compensability of the time. Let the workers punch in and then let them boot up or face a class action.
Simple as that,,,