Call center facilities around the country are receiving a wake-up call regarding allegations that they typically require their workers to work overtime without pay or to come to work early to perform work tasks before beginning their pay shifts. A class action suit was recently filed in Columbia, Missouri, alleging that State Farm Insurance had required its workers to come in early without compensation to do tasks to prepare them for making calls.
The suit alleged employment law violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), one count of Missouri’s minimum wage law and one count of unjust enrichment. Although the alleged practices began in 2005, the lead plaintiff only recently filed her suit because of her lack of knowledge of compensation and employment law, a fact probably not uncommon among most workers.
Federal and State Wage and Hour Laws
Federal and Missouri law requires that nonexempt employees, which includes telemarketers and call center workers, receive overtime pay at not less than one-and-a-half times their regular rate of pay after 40 hours of work in one workweek. Missouri law does not, however, entitle workers to overtime when working more than eight hours in a single day. Employers cannot manipulate an employee’s wage rate to avoid the overtime rate.
Call center employees are not the only workers apparently being exploited by these practices. Bank of America was also sued in Missouri by its tellers for allegedly being advised to not record their hours or by simply eliminating overtime hours from their records. Employees were also reportedly working during lunch breaks or were not allowed to take breaks.
Federal law requires that breaks of less than 20 minutes be compensated. Although Missouri law does not require lunch breaks, employees need not be paid for breaks 20 minutes or longer. If they do work during a scheduled break, however, they are required to be paid.
Employees are usually reluctant to report obvious violations of compensation and overtime laws because they fear retaliation and loss of their job. They may also have been told that they are exempt from the federal and state compensation laws and may not receive overtime. Other employees may accept their employer’s practices as standard.
Related Resource: Lawyers and Settlements “Call Center Reps Entitled to Overtime“