It seems every week another call center case pops up.  These are extremely dangerous cases for employers and that is why I keep writing (or, harping) about them, as a warning to employers, not only those who operate call centers, but to any/all employers who “order” workers to report early to boot up computers or perform other preliminary (and on the other end, postliminary) tasks.  In this latest case, a class of workers allege that they were required to perform 10-40 minutes of pre-shift work without compensation.  The case is entitled Arble v. Dominion Energy Services Inc. and was filed in federal court in the Northern District of Ohio.

As is typical in these cases, the named plaintiff alleges that her job as a customer service representative required her to begin fielding customer calls as soon as her shift started.  She claims she had to do this notwithstanding that she initially had to “log on to multiple Dominion Energy applications and systems.”  She claims that boot-up time took at least twenty (20) minutes and could take more time if systems or programs needed updating.  Her claim (and the class claim) is that she was not compensated for this preliminary work.

She claims she was deprived of overtime and also alleges that the Company knew this was work time and chose deliberately not to pay employees.  She states that “there was no practical administrative difficulty in recording this unpaid work of plaintiff and other similarly situated employees.”  She alleges that this “unpaid time could have been precisely recorded for payroll purposes simply by allowing employees to clock in before they began booting up defendant’s computer systems and applications.”  I note that one of the criteria for sustaining such a claim is that the time be amenable to being accurately recorded.

The employees also allege that the Company did not keep required records to track this pre-shift work although the Company was required to by law.  The workers seek a nationwide class; they also seek a sub-class composed of Ohio workers.  The classes would be current/former hourly call center workers who performed preliminary work and were not compensated.  They seek unpaid wages, interest, and (naturally) attorney fees.

The Takeaway

This has to stop. When will employers learn. It is better, far better, to pay for 5-10 minutes bootup time on the clock than (constantly) risk exposure to a class action lawsuit. It only takes one employee, who was probably fired for cause, most probably deservedly so, to find a lawyer and start this process rolling. Employers have no protection against that occurrence, save to be proactive and stop it from happening before it starts.

Please do this for your own sakes…